Ramadi – Insurgents’ assaults on supply convoys west of Baghdad landed a blow to United States marines’ stomachs on Monday as their bases in al-Anbar province began rationing food amid fears their stocks could run low.
Since Sunday, all 1st Marine Division camps have rationed food, said spokesperson 1st Lieutenant Eric Knapp.
Some bases are down to one hot meal a day while others are still serving two, Knapp said.
“We don’t want to run out so we’re conserving because chow is not more important than someone’s life,” said Staff Sergeant Denise Ruiz, the dining hall manager at the main base in Ramadi, home to about 1 200 marines.
“It’s not that there is a shortage. We just want to make sure our contractors get here safely.”
The military’s catering is contracted out to the American firm Kellogg, Brown and Root.
Ruiz said they had not received a food delivery in at least a week, but a shipment was expected very soon.
This account from an Army lawyer blogging from Tikrit also addresses the problem of convoys being sabotaged:
Life here is falling into a relatively predictable pattern for most of us here on the staff – wake up, work, eat, sleep…repeat. Like I’ve said before the quality of life here is actually pretty good. Far, far better than what soldiers faced 14 years ago during Desert Storm. But the recent “problems” we’ve been having over here have had some interesting side effects. Many of the civilian truck drivers who are working in this area have refused to drive on our convoys and that has slowed down delivery of everything from mail to food (I’m going to stock up on my favorite MREs for when they close the mess hall). I’ve heard that something close to 200 KBR drivers have quit and the Turkish drivers aren’t going past Mosul. So much for Rumsfeld’s notion that we can “outsource” all the non-essential jobs in the army to contractors. Unlike a soldier, you can’t force a civilian trucker to drive if they don’t want to.
The deaths occurred the same day the military abruptly closed sections of major highways to all traffic except military and contractor vehicles, severely slowing the movement of people and goods to and from the Iraqi capital.
U.S. military commanders said the shutdown applied to 180 miles of roads leading into the capital from the north, south and west. Persistent attacks on convoys have lead to shortages of food and other essential supplies on American military installations and inside the headquarters of the U.S.-led occupation authority.
Army engineers erected prefabricated modular steel bridges to temporarily replace spans south and west of Baghdad that were damaged in an apparently coordinated series of roadside bombings that began two weeks ago.
Military logisticians have tried to adapt to the hazardous conditions by using alternate and less-direct routes off major highways and by prioritizing the delivery of supplies according to the urgency with which units need them, a military official, Army Maj. Richard W. Spiegel, said yesterday.
“In certain cases, the recent increase in attacks may have changed the way we do business, but it has not affected the way we supply or support the troops,” said Spiegel, a spokesman for the 13th Corps Support Command, which manages logistics for the joint military command in Iraq. “Water, food, ammunition, fuel, spare parts and other critical supplies are still getting where they need to be when they need to be there.”
Of particular concern is a major expressway, called Main Supply Route Tampa by U.S. commanders, that carries the bulk of military traffic in Iraq. The expressway runs east from the Jordanian and Syrian borders toward Baghdad, before veering southeast toward Basra and the Kuwaiti border.
Ambushes and bombings along the highways amount to “a concerted effort on the part of the enemy to try to interfere with our lines of communication, our main supply routes,” and the effects could ripple through the Iraqi economy, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, warned Friday.
The owner of a trucking company in Baghdad, who gave his name only as Abu Abdullah because several of his drivers have received death threats for working with Americans, said his employees have begun to refuse work connected to the occupation.
For much of the past year, Abu Abdullah said, his company has transported concrete barriers, food and electrical supplies for Kellogg Brown & Root, the firm that has the major contract for transporting food and supplies for the U.S. military in Iraq. The trucking company often would take materials from the Balad air base, about 45 miles northwest of Baghdad, to smaller bases.
“Whatever we take, it’s dangerous now,” Abu Abdullah said. “The mujahadeen stop you on the road. They ask you: Who are taking these things for? They want to see the papers. If you lie and you don’t have the right papers, they will burn you with the trailer.”
He added that Kellogg Brown & Root, a unit of Halliburton Co., has begun offering trucking companies 1 million dinars — about $700 — for an overnight truck trip in some cases, a large sum in a country where $200 is considered a decent monthly salary. “The drivers still refuse,” Abu Abdullah said, even when the firm has offered armed escorts.
Kellogg Brown & Root suspended convoy trips after insurgents ambushed an Army fuel-truck convoy April 9, killing one soldier and an Iraqi driver. The company recently resumed the convoys, a Halliburton spokeswoman said.
The US is obviously trying to put a good face on their logistical problems, but they are quite severe.
As Steve Gilliard put so well on his blog yesterday:
Logistics is the way armies operate. Forget the tactics, if you can’t eat and change uniforms, you can’t fight effectively. If the guerillas have blocked the main supply lines from Kuwait, they have achieved a victory which is 200 times more important than their stand in Fallujah.
The generals behind the guerrillas have figured out that we can’t do two things: fight the guerillas on their turf and feed ourselves. We’re going to have to choose. Which is why going after Sadr was so incredibly bone stupid. Alienating the Shia means every mile of our supply lines could face attack.
Once again, CENTCOM says stupid things, while the facts say something else. The NVA never cut the supply lines to MACV. The insurgents are threatening to starve Baghdad or at least make food resupplies difficult. That’s a massive deal, it’s probably the most important development of the war to date