US Military Fuel Use for Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan

[Editor’s comment: Billions of barrels of oil are needed to run the Empire. Although there are lots of numbers in this piece, it illustrates just how central energy is to the Empire as the billions being spent on fuel by the US as it wages war around the planet demonstrates. The author has calculated that even adding up only a small percentage of the total amount spent by the US military on fuel, it comes to $4 million a day and as he says this is only from fighting two wars and his number is “just the tip of the iceberg”.]

Sohbet Karbuz

In my two previous posts (Fuel Logistics Pain in Afghanistan and Fuel Logistics Pain in Iraq) I had come to the following conclusions:

Fuel is delivered to the US military’s forward-deployed locations

  • In Iraq via three main routes–from Kuwait in the south, Jordan in the west, and Turkey in the north; and
  • In Afghanistan via two main routes–from Central Asian states in the north and from Pakistan in the east.

Total amount of fuel delivered to US Forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq in 2008 was 21 million barrels, or 57 600 barrels per day; of which

(1) In Iraq: 17.4 million barrels or 47 600 barrels per day
(2) In Afghanistan 3.64 million barrels, or 10 000 barrels per day.

GAO gives a similar figure: ‘In 2008, more than 68 million gallons of fuel, on average, were supplied by DOD each month to support U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan’[1]. This makes 53 000 barrels per day.

Now, let me try to calculate the total amount of fuel delivered since the beginning of operations in 2001 until the end of September 2008. My rough estimate is that approximately 170 million barrels of fuel was supplied to US military in Iraq and in Afghanistan. With an average cost of $70 per barrel of jet fuel (the best proxy for JP8) over 2001-2008 period, total delivered fuel cost comes to roughly $12 billion.

The military spent $12.6 billion on jet fuel, diesel and other fuels in 2007, with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan consuming $1.7 billion of that total. This makes $4.6 million a day. In 2008 it was $4.2 million a day (my calculation) due to drop in oil prices.

Note that this is the cost for delivered fuel, and does not include the delivery, protection etc cost. I mean it is not fully burdened cost. Unfortunately, total amount of paid and unpaid oil used by the US military in ‘freedom’ operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and its true cost (including delivery) are still a mystery (at least to me).

Now, do you think that a total of $12 billion that is spent by The US Military for fuel in Afghanistan and Iraq until the end of 2008 (or more than $4 million a day) is a big amount? Maybe! But keep in mind that it is only a part of the total fuel expenses!

Why is that? Well, I would like to remind you that those figures are for the amount of fuel delivered to the US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does not mean the amount of fuel consumed during the Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). There is an important difference.

Because the figures I gave above do not include the fuel consumed by

  • Navy ships and Navy Aircraft
  • Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • US Mobility Command
  • Military Sealift Command
  • Probably most of Aerial Refueling
  • And the amount of fuel burned in transporting the fuel delivered

For instance:

(1) In 2008, DESC-Middle East issued 291 million gallons of fuel (19 000 barrels per day) to naval ships in the 27 countries within the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility How much of that was used for the OEF/OIF?

(2) Air Mobility Command aircraft provides airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation and air mobility supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In 2008, in support of OIF/OEF, KC-10s have flown more than 4200 missions delivering air refueling support to numerous joint and coalition receiver aircraft. During a serious recent missions, KC-10s and the 2nd Air Refueling Squadron (McGuire AFB, NJ) played a large role in providing fuel to fighter aircraft protecting ground assets involved in building the Kajaki Dam in Afghanistan.

June 8, 2009:Air Mobility Command’s hub for global airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation is ‘all in’ with its commitment to support joint worldwide operations, kicking off efforts this week to airlift more than 300 Stryker vehicles to military forces in Afghanistan. Moving the Strykers, which are assigned to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Lewis, Wash., was accomplished by a combination of sealift and airlift assets. The vehicles and equipment were taken by ship for the majority of the trip around the world, and then the Air Force took over to fly the last portion of the journey into and-locked Afghanistan. Since 9/11 until 24 July 2009, 10.59 b Lbs of fuel (1.58 Gb of fuel, delivered to air refueling. Source: AMC Year in Review

(3) Military Sealift Command delivers combat equipment, vehicles, fuel, supplies and ammunition to sustain US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. All MSC ships, unlike other US Navy ships, are crewed by civilians.

(4) During fiscal year 2008, MSC ships delivered more than 4.7 million square feet of combat vehicles, rolling stock, equipment and supplies to Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy warfighters engaged in worldwide operations. At the same time, MSC delivered more than 1.8 billion gallons of fuel for ground vehicles, aircraft, ships, and power generation. USTRANSCOM 2008 Annual Coomand Report

(5) April 30, 2009: Over the past five weeks, three Pacific Air Forces C-17 Globemaster IIIs flew around-the-clock missions from Manas to Afghanistan delivering special cargo in support of the Operation Enduring Freedom surge. The unofficially named ‘Manas C-17 Shuttle’ played an integral role in the Expeditionary Mobility Task Force triangle delivery system to move special cargo delivered from Japanvia contracted 747 cargo aircraft. In turn, the C-17 crews staged at Manas were tasked to take the cargo downrange for the buildup of temporary flight ramp areas at various locations in Afghanistan.

(6) ‘Ten years after the Cold War, over 70 percent of the tonnage required to position today’s U.S. Army into battle is fuel. Naval forces depend each day on millions of gallons of fuel to operate around the globe. The Air Force, largest DoD consumer, spends 84% of its fuel delivery budget to deliver 6% of its fuel.’[[2]]

In sum, we don’t know the real amount and cost of fuel consumed during the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. What we more or less know is the amount and cost of fuel consumed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US military forces. And my guess is that what we know is only the tip of the iceberg. It is that tip of the iceberg (fuel delivered to Iraq and Afghanistan) that we see and from which we make judgment. What we don’t know is what is under (fuel consumed for the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom).

[1] Defense Management: DOD Needs to Increase Attention on Fuel Demand Management at Forward-Deployed Locations, GAO-09-300 February 20, 2009, (see Full Report)
[[2] More Capable Warfighting Through Reduced Fuel Burden, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, The Defense Science Board Task Force on Improving Fuel Efficiency of Weapons Platforms, January 2001.

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