U.S.’s Afghan Headache: $400-a-Gallon Gasoline
Parachuting a barrel of fuel to a remote Afghan base takes sharp flying skills, steady nerves and flawless timing. It also costs a lot of money—up to $400 a gallon, by military estimates.
But the Pentagon is stuck with the expense for the foreseeable future, especially given the recent deterioration in U.S.-Pakistani relations.
The U.S. Air Force’s 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron flew an airdrop mission over eastern Afghanistan in October. Pictured, a C-130 cargo aircraft seen from another C-130.
"We’re going to burn a lot of gas to drop a lot of gas," said Capt. Zack Albaugh, a California Air National Guard pilot deployed with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. He spoke just before a recent mission to supply a remote base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, scene of cross-border rocket attacks that have heightened regional tensions this fall.
Such security issues were addressed Monday at an international meeting over Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, where President Hamid Karzai appealed for continuing international funding well after most coalition forces withdraw in 2014.
But for now, nearly 100,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in Afghanistan, often stationed in difficult-to-reach outposts that depend on pallets of food, water, ammunition and fuel that are dropped by parachute out of cargo planes.
Capt. Albaugh’s recent supply flight over the country’s Paktika province underscored a simple fact of the U.S. military presence: War is inherently costly, and that is keenly felt when the military’s budget is under growing strain and vital supply lines come under pressure.