How a war really works

Welcome to America’s uncomfortable choices. “Liberation” is such a tough sell:

In the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the U.S. government is pressuring Pakistan to investigate the incident that left more than 170 dead in India’s largest city. After arriving Thursday in Islamabad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded that the Pakistanis provide “robust” cooperation with the Indians to find the perpetrators. There has also been talk that the United States might suspend aid to Pakistan.

Don’t believe it. America has little—if any—leverage with the Pakistani government. The weakness of the U.S. bargaining position can be summed up in two words: “fuel” and “Afghanistan.”

According to the latest data from the Defense Energy Support Center, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. military is now consuming about 575,000 gallons of fuel per day in Afghanistan. And about half of that fuel is coming via truck from refineries in Pakistan. According to a presentation made by Army Col. Mark Olinger at the Defense Energy Support Center’s biannual conference in Crystal City, Va., last April, the U.S. military in Afghanistan buys fuel from four different countries: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan. But it’s the Pakistani refineries at Lahore, Karachi, and Attock that are the most essential.