Washington: A top Pentagon official told US lawmakers that the country is working towards reducing its dependence on the Pakistani route for taking supplies for its soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

Given the unpredictable nature of Pakistan, the Pentagon is also working to maintaining weeks of reserve of its resources in Afghanistan so as to handle any kind of contingencies or disruption in the supply route.

Testifying before a Congressional Committee, Lt Gen Mitchell Stevenson, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, revealed for the first time that as much as 60 per cent of American supply to Afghanistan is already going through the north and the Pakistani route was being used for 40 per cent of the supplies.

"Currently, it's about 40 percent of the total supplies shipped into Afghanistan on the surface, that don't fly in, come through Pakistan, the other 60 per cent from the north," Stevenson said in response to a question from Senator Kelly A Ayotte.

The target though is to take 75 percent of the supplies into Afghanistan from the north through the Central Asian countries.

Explaining that the US is taking a number of steps to deal with potential problems, Stevenson said disruptions of supply line were not uncommon and informed that a sit-down
strike was on currently outside the port, that US trucks are not able to get through.

"It's going to probably last a couple of days – not uncommon. We've dealt with this before, but as you point out, this is problematic for us. The goal is to get to 75 per cent from the north. We're not there yet," he said, adding that was a goal established by the TRANSCOM commander to his staff.

"We're sending nothing that is what we consider sensitive on the ground -- no ammunition flows on the ground, no high-tech military gear flows -- we even flew the MATVs (mine resistant ambush protected vehicles) in the theatre rather than send them and potentially subject them to pilferage," he said.

In addition to these steps, Pentagon is also experimenting with sending things surface to a friendly country and then flying it to Afghanistan.

"We're in an open hearing, so I'd rather not get into the details but a friendly country in the Mideast and then just flying over from there using C-17s. It takes advantage of the inexpensiveness of surface movement but avoids that entire trip into Pakistan," he said. Pakistan had last year blocked a major NATO supply line into Afghanistan in retaliation for a cross-border helicopter attack, and opened it only after the US tendered an official apology.

"We have created what we call theatre-provided equipment. It's a pool of equipment that just stays in Afghanistan so that we don't -- as a unit rotates out each year, it doesn't have to drag out its equipment and the new unit has to bring in its own. We just keep the equipment there," Stevenson said.

He said this strategy necessitates refurbishing of the equipment every two or three years, but the idea is to "keep things off that ground lock".

He said avoiding the land route in Pakistan would be cheaper in the long run as it would avoid pilferage and other problems.

(Agencies)