Saturday, January 10, 2009

U.S. plans to expand its Afghan lifelines

A convoy of Afghan trucks carrying wheat and US military supplies travels through Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday. (Bob Strong /The Associated Press)

By Thom Shanker
Published: December 30, 2008
The United States and NATO are planning to open and expand supply lines through Central Asia to deliver fuel, food and other goods to a military mission in Afghanistan that is expected to grow by tens of thousands of troops in the months ahead, American and alliance diplomats and military officials say.
The plan to open new paths through Central Asia reflects an American-led effort to seek out a more reliable alternative to the route from Pakistan through the strategic Khyber Pass, which was closed Tuesday by Pakistani security forces when they opened an offensive against militants in the region.
The militants have shown they can threaten shipments through the pass into Afghanistan, burning U.S. cargo trucks and Humvees over recent weeks. More than 80 percent of the supplies for U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan now flow through Pakistan. But the new arrangements could leave Washington more reliant on cooperation with such authoritarian countries as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which have poor human rights records.
The officials said delicate negotiations were under way not only with the Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan, but with Russia as well, to work out the details of new routes. The talks show the continued importance of U.S. and NATO cooperation with the Kremlin, despite tension over Russia's August war with Georgia and other issues.
U.S. officials said they were trying to allay Central Asian concerns by promising that the supplies would be hauled only by commercial companies and would not include weapons or munitions. Officials also said that no additional U.S. bases would be required.

Full article is here

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