I am no expert in military logistics, but I was struck by the extraordinary recent deterioration in the performance of the surface route to the Afghan theatre.
Right now, British troops are acutely dependent on our ability to send supplies by sea to Karachi, where they are unloaded and then taken by road through Pakistan. Ahead of this week’s Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office provided me with a briefing based on its detailed report into the Ministry of Defence’s logistics supply chain. This noted that only 15 per cent of consignments shipped by land through Pakistan between 10 December 2009 and 8 December 2010 arrived within the targeted time of 77-87 days, a fair way off the 75 per cent target.
It’s not clear when he will do so but the prime minister has promised to make an “early visit” to Pakistan, according to the joint statement from Zardari and Cameron today.
There is also a key line about the “sacrifices” made by Pakistani security forces in fighting violent extremism – which is presumably an attempt to defuse Cameron’s comments last week. (He had said, while in India, that Pakistan should not ‘look both ways’ on terror).
The Prime Minister recognised the sacrifices made by Pakistan’s military, civil law enforcement agencies and people in fighting violent extremism and militancy and appreciated the efforts of the democratic government. Both leaders appreciated the close co-operation that already exists between respective police forces and other security agencies.