A considerable source of concern for senior U.S. military officials as they prepare for the surge of 30,000-plus troops that President Obama is announcing tonight is how, precisely, to get them there. The logistics of transporting soldiers and equipment will be far more difficult in Afghanistan than in Iraq, according to the officials.
Iraq has a seaport, a neighbor friendly to American forces (Kuwait), and well-paved roads. Afghanistan has neither the seaport nor a wide network of good roads. Flowing supplies through Pakistan has proved problematic and dangerous in the past as convoys winding up from the port of Karachi through the Khyber Pass have been repeatedly attacked.
The movement of forces and equipment back from Iraq also provides a window into these challenges. Getting troops and supplies back from Iraq is "much more than moving a mountain," says Col. Mike Bird, the commander of the Defense Logistics Agency. "It surpasses any logistical challenge we have undertaken to date, all while we are still fighting two wars." But, senior U.S. military officials say, the challenge of getting supplies and troops into Afghanistan in the coming surge will be far greater.