US and NATO forces are expected to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, yet the logistics of removing military hardware from the country remain unresolved.
Ultimately, there is no easy way out for the arms and equipment. According to some estimates, up to 120,000 containers of military goods will need to be moved out of Afghanistan along with departing troops. The problem is both of the existing supply routes for Afghanistan - one via Pakistan, the other traversing Central Asian states – have their flaws and vulnerabilities. Thus, at a time when US and NATO planners place great value on reliability, they must contend with lots of uncertainty.
Right now, the Pakistani route would seem to hold the most risk. Tension between Washington and Islamabad over American drone strikes caused Pakistani leaders to close the supply route last fall. It reopened in July after protracted negotiations. But the thought still probably lurks in the back of many Pentagon minds: if Pakistan abruptly cut the supply line once, it could do so again.
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Karimjan Akhmedov is presently the CEO of the DF World Inc. (Canada). He is a former deputy minister of economy in Tajikistan. Evgeniya Usmanova is a Eurasia specialist with a particular interest in Central Asia.