A diplomatic tussle between the United States and Pakistan, coupled with a recent series of attacks on fuel tankers destined for coalition facilities in Afghanistan, is refocusing the Pentagon’s attention on the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a US-NATO supply line running through Central Asia.
US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) maintains that security conditions in Pakistan are not so dire as to require a serious increase of traffic on NDN. But defense officials say NDN stands ready to handle a surge in traffic, should the Khyber Pass, the critical transit point on the Pakistani-Afghan transport route, remain closed.
The US military has been reducing its reliance on Pakistani ground routes since 2005. “In general terms, of all cargo destined for Afghanistan, about half goes through Pakistan, about 30 percent goes through the NDN, and 20 percent by air,” Cynthia Bauer, a spokeswoman for TRANSCOM, told EurasiaNet.org on October 2.
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Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.