Foreign Policy Blogs

Afghanistan: Alternative Supply Routes

As the Kyber Pass and other transportation lanes through Pakistan into Afghanistan have become increasingly subjected to Taliban and insurgent attacks, NATO has looked to alternative routes. In just the last week or so there have been at least 3 separate attacks on NATO supplies inside of Pakistan, including one incident where hundreds of NATO vehicles were burned and destroyed. NATO officials caution that though these attacks have been upsetting, they are still not 'significant’ enough to cause too much concern. However, this has not stopped NATO officials from speeding up the process to obtain other routes, specifically ones through Russia and Central Asia.

cars.jpgAround 70-80% of NATO supplies currently come in through volatile Pakistan and air transport is a near none starter when one considers the costs. It appears that NATO has made an agreement in principle with both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to set up a railway to move supplies into Afghanistan. Concerning a route through Russia's territory, last April an agreement was made for a route but negotiations stalled and the Georgian crisis apparently grounded them to a halt, but it looks like a new door is opening. Moscow already lets ‘preferential’ NATO members, Germany and France, use move supplies, but it looks like a deal is in the works allowing all NATO states, including the US, to do so. A Russian official stated:

“All NATO countries will be able to use the Northern Corridor. As far as we understand, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have agreed to it and sent the relevant papers to Brussels. We’re just waiting for NATO to sign the agreements. We’ve done our part.”

The Northern Corridor, as this route is called, would hopefully be up and running within ‘weeks’ according a NATO official. Moscow may disagree with the United States and NATO on many issues, but Afghanistan, Central Asia, and South Asia stability is not one of them. A ‘Central Route’, which would go through Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and then into Afghanistan is also being discussed. Eurasia analyst Matthew Clement argues that Turkmenistan's ‘opened’ stance since the death of Niyazov bods well for a possible deal with NATO as the country has sought to expand its relations.

These alternative routes will take on greater significance in a couple months as the United States will need to maintain supplies for 20,000 more troops expected to enter the conflict. We’ll see how these negotiations play out in the very near future.

(Photo Source: Radio Free Europe – Burned NATO vehicles in Peshawar, Pakistan)

 

Author

Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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