The Pentagon is going local in Central Asia, seeking to increase the role of regional long-haul trucking firms and food producers in supplying US troops in Afghanistan. Local economies stand to benefit from new business opportunities, officials in Washington say.
Though happy to have the business, truckers complain the increased American traffic is driving up the price of the kickbacks that they must pay en route. The supply line takes them through some of the most corrupt countries on the planet.
In July, US military officials launched the Surface Tender CENTCOM Region (STCR) program. Designed to support the procurement of goods in Central Asia and the south Caucasus for US bases in Afghanistan, the project is boosting traffic on the so-called Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a web of rail, air and trucking routes connecting Western Europe and Afghanistan. Pentagon officials, announcing that many of the products would be sourced in Kyrgyzstan, describe STCR as “one of the most important ventures within [the] region.”
But between Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan lies Tajikistan.
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Matthew Stourbridge is the pseudonym for a journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.