THE MISSING CONTAINERS
By Admiral M A Tahir
Containers on wheels where these end up only time would tell.
A lot has been said about the missing containers. However, we have all missed the point that these containers are not missing at all, particularly for the senders and the recipients. The military accounting system is one of the most stringent and does not allow for things going missing. Let us track how NATO supplies are ordered and supplied.
The logistics people in Afghanistan place an order on their supply system for provision of all sorts of materials, from mineral water to Armoured Personnel Carriers. Once generated this demand travels through the system and reaches the supply depots. These depots could be located in USA, Europe or regional facilities maintained by US Forces or NATO. These regional facilities may be located in KSA or somewhere else in the Middle East.
The items ordered and approved for shipment are collected, listed and stuffed into the containers. These containers are loaded on vessels and brought to one of the two Pakistani ports, where from these are transported by road through local contractors. Once the goods reach the depots in Afghanistan, they are checked against demand and if found correct, the books stand balanced.
Now if there are items short, the initiator of the demand will immediately raise a report of short supply, informing everyone of the discrepancy in what was ordered and what was received. He will do this first because that is how he knows to work and secondly he does not want to be charged for embezzlement and court martialed when the records are checked by the auditors. If this is true and I know it is so, how could the dispatching depots and the recipient organization not come to know and raise a short supply report for the containers they ordered and did not receive.
That brings in the shipment of certain containers, stuffed with whatever, being shipped under the name of NATO supplies but completely outside the demand and supply system of NATO. Now who could send these containers? Any intelligence agency of any country could do it but of course with the benign knowledge of the dispatching depots or just through connivance with the shipping agent at the port of embarkation without the NATO system coming to know about it. In addition to the senders, the intended recipients were the only other party who knew about this shipment, the identification and also the contents of these containers.
As we know, all containers are identifiable through shipping papers in addition to physical identification markings. The clearing agents at Pakistani ports handling the NATO supplies also had to be in the loop. So, when the shipments arrived, the containers containing NATO supplies and destined for Afghanistan were loaded and the trucks hit the road, while the containers outside the NATO system though cleared in the same name were loaded on trucks and departed for their respective destinations under the instructions and supervision of the intended recipients. These destinations could be anywhere in Pakistan but were mainly located in Karachi and may be Baluchistan.
I say may be because recipients in Baluchistan can be supplied better from across the border, but that would entail getting into the NATO system where again accounting procedures would be a hindrance. The intelligence agencies do not like the accounting system of the armed forces as it leaves a trail. Remember the lengths that CIA went to for supplying weapons in the notorious Iran-Contra scandal? The easiest would have been to supply the Iranians from any depot but CIA did not want to leave a trail that could be retraced. Same with clandestine supply to recipients in Pakistan, the NATO supply system was a non-starter.
So, in the saga of missing containers there are really no unanswered questions and really nothing has gone missing. The clandestine senders sent, the clandestine recipients received and NATO supply books remained balanced. The sender knows, the recipient knows and so do the shipping agents at the ports of embarkation and the ports of Pakistan. Questions are being raised only by this nation of hapless simpletons. Thus, when the US Ambassador says there are no containers missing, essentially he is telling the truth, as there are no containers missing in anybody’s books!