Carry on up the Khyber

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There is no doubt that last year was a tough one for everyone involved in supply chain and logistics adjusting to radically new trading conditions, becoming more agile to deal with rapid changes in the market, managing risk more effectively, and all the time continuing to reduce costs.
But, if you think you have had logistics problems, perhaps this rather piquant story, courtesy of US newspaper ³The Baltimore Sun², will set them in perspective.
Before Christmas, US president Barack Obama started ramping up the American presence in Afghanistan in an effort to hasten the end of the war.
Because Afghanistan is land-locked, all the US military¹s food, equipment and fuel has to be shipped to Karachi in Pakistan and then trucked over the Khyber pass into the country.
These convoys are routinely ambushed and pillaged. And, despite the fact that the CIA has been bribing the various groups of insurgents not to attack the convoys, US military supplies are still falling into the hands of both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, according to the writer who was, apparently, a CIA operative for many years.
The logical conclusion of this is, of course, that as the US steps up its activity and sends more supplies into Afghanistan, so more munitions will fall into the hands of the Taliban.
The US army¹s top brass is no doubt meditating on general Omar Bradley¹s famous adage: ³amateurs study strategy professionals study logistics².
Hopefully, the coming year will be rather more peaceful for logistics professionals. There are signs that there will be some improvement in market conditions. Nevertheless, it is all to easy for organisations weakened by recession to run into cash flow problems as they try to fund expansion.
These kinds of considerations mean that it would be a mistake to think that 2010 will not be every bit as testing as last year in its own way. But solving the problems associated with growth is a much happier task than managing decline. I wish you a successful and prosperous new year.

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