Northern Distribution Network Keeps Growing
The U.S. and NATO have been busy lately expanding the Northern Distribution Network, by working on three agreements that will allow coalition forces more options to take military cargo through Central Asia into Afghanistan.
First, NATO has apparently gotten Russia to agree to allow armored vehicles to transit its territory:
"It's still not ammunition or guns, but armoured vehicles," the diplomat said. "Right now it's things like food, clothes fuel. It takes it more to military, but not yet to lethal (equipment)."
The vehicles would include armoured personnel carriers, but not tanks, and the deal would potentially allow vehicles needing replacement or repair to be brought back through Russia, the diplomat said.
Second, NATO and Russia are expected to agree on "reverse transit," i.e. taking cargo out of Afghanistan back to Europe, said Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at his press conference this week:
I expect a discussion on our transit arrangements with Russia, and I would also expect a decision to expand the current transit arrangement so that it will also allow the so-called reverse transit. That is, transit of cargo from Afghanistan and back and not only one way transport of cargo to Afghanistan. So that's one thing. And we are also discussing what kind of cargo could be transported. I'll not go into details, but stress... that's important to stress, that we're only speaking about non-lethal goods and cargo.
And finally, Kazakhstan and the U.S. have finalized an agreement allowing U.S. planes to transit from the U.S., over the North Pole and south into Afghanistan, rather than using an east-west route via Europe. This was first announced in April, but it's now official, according to the U.S. embassy in Astana (pdf):
[The agreement] will enable the United States and International Security Assistance Force partners to further enhance crucial transportation routes and decrease the amount of time needed to move personnel and equipment, and needed supplies in support of Coalition forces and the Government and people of Afghanistan. By providing access to new transit routes, Kazakhstan is providing valuable support to the international effort to defeat the violent extremism in Afghanistan and to ensure Afghanistan’s and the region’s security.
Apparently what the U.S. really wants, though, is the ability to transport lethal cargo on the NDN. Any chance of that happening?