A Map of the NATO Supply Routes out of Afghanistan

(Map by Sam Pepple / Sample Cartography)

From Vanda Felbab-Brown's "Stuck in the Mud":

About halfway between Kabul and Kunduz lies the Salang Pass. NATO trucks have no option but to drive through this tunnel, but, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet, it is a deathtrap. Built in 1964 by the Soviets, it was designed to handle 1,000 vehicles a day. During the recent closure of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, some 10,000 tried to jostle their way through every 24 hours. Some get stalled for days. Carbon monoxide, and gas fumes, fill the air; if one of the fuel trucks were to blow, the others would all go with it. Exactly that happened in 1982, and, reportedly, some 900 Russians and Afghans were killed.

As if fumes and fire weren't enough, the tunnel is also plagued by water and ice. The ceiling and walls were never completed, so they leak. As winter snows come, the tunnel becomes one gigantic mud bath, opening onto a cliff-side ice rink on the other side. Given the extreme weather conditions and the fact that the road carries about four times the weight that a highway is supposed to withstand, it is unlikely that any pavement that Turkey or the United States or any of its allies could lay would last. The patching that ISAF did in 2010 is already long gone. Even so, ISAF is discussing repaving at least part of the road, at the cost of more than $60 million.

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