Foreign Policy Blogs

Afghan Trappings and Routes

There is much happening in US-Afghanistan relations and policy in the last week. Former Clinton super diplomat, Richard Holbrooke, was chosen by the Obama administration to be a special envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, a region Obama called the ‘Central Front’ in war on terror. Just as I write, Obama's Afghan policy is literally hitting the ground with fresh American troops arriving in Afghanistan in what may be a doubling of US forces there by early this year. As Obama begins to ‘own’ this war, a controversy has sprung regarding American forces and Afghan casualties, and many journalists are actually starting to look at the war from a point of view of cautiousness and closer examination as to whether or not the US Afghan surge can succeed.

afghanistan_rel_2003.jpgBut before we get into the myriad of topics surrounding Obama's administration's Afghan-Pakistan policy, I would like to first attempt to wrap up the ongoing new US-Afghan supply route dilemma, if it in fact could ever be concluded. It finally appears that an official agreement(s) has been reached between the US military and Russian, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan governments concerning a supply route into Afghanistan. CentCom Commander for the region, General David Petraeus stated:

"There have been agreements reached, and there are transit lines now and transit agreements for commercial goods and services in particular that include several countries in the Central Asian states and also Russia."

In recent weeks, Petraeus visited Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and in the past couple days met with several members of the Pakistani government and military. "It is very important as we increase the effort in Afghanistan that we have multiple routes that go into the country," General Petraeus told reporters in Islamabad. Though it was reported awhile back that these routes may be allowed to supply the US military in Afghanistan with lethal goods, to go along with the currently transited non-lethal variety, but it is unclear if this was part of the deal.

Apparently, Petraeus and the US had to convince the CA states and Russia that these new routes, which will involve the building of infrastructure along the way, would not include any long term facilities that the US would control. In other words, No Permanent Bases. Scholar Stephen Blank analyzes the new deal and argues that its a good one for the CA states. The US has agreed to not only pay transit fees, but also buy many of the supplies from local sources and build up local infrastructure. During this economic slump, these CA states, especially Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the latter of which Blank believes may be saved from collapse by this deal, could definitely use the aid. Maybe the US military aid will provide a 'stimulus’ for the local economies.

 

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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