Has NATO given up on the Pakistan border for good?

The AP reports that NATO has inked an agreement with several Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan to allow the reverse transport of material out of Afghanistan: Since NATO already has an agreement with Russia, the deal will allow it to ship back to Europe tens of thousands of vehicles, containers and other items through the overland ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
QAIS USYAN/AFP/Getty Images
QAIS USYAN/AFP/Getty Images
QAIS USYAN/AFP/Getty Images

The AP reports that NATO has inked an agreement with several Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan to allow the reverse transport of material out of Afghanistan:

Since NATO already has an agreement with Russia, the deal will allow it to ship back to Europe tens of thousands of vehicles, containers and other items through the overland route when the evacuation picks up pace later this year.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/04/4536590/nato-strikes-transport-deals-through.html#storylink=cpy

The AP reports that NATO has inked an agreement with several Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan to allow the reverse transport of material out of Afghanistan:

Since NATO already has an agreement with Russia, the deal will allow it to ship back to Europe tens of thousands of vehicles, containers and other items through the overland route when the evacuation picks up pace later this year.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/04/4536590/nato-strikes-transport-deals-through.html#storylink=cpy

The Northern Distribution Network was once viewed as way to relieve some pressure on the more-traveled Pakistani route, but with the Pakistan border closed to NATO for the last six months since the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani troops, the arrangement is starting to feel a bit more permanent: 

The announcement on Monday appears to indicate that Washington and the allies are now preparing for the possibility that the supply link through Pakistan, said to be about six times cheaper than its northern alternative, may not be reopened at all.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/04/4536590/nato-strikes-transport-deals-through.html#storylink=cpy

But as Rod Norland of the New York Times reported over the weekend, the northern route is hardly an ideal solution:

There are other roads, but they are often single-lane dirt tracks through even higher mountain passes, or they are frequently subject to ambushes by insurgents and bandits. So a tunnel built to handle 1,000 vehicles a day, and until the Pakistani boycott against NATO in November handling 2,000, now tries — and often fails — to let 10,000 vehicles through, alternating northbound and southbound truck traffic every other day.

“It’s only a matter of time until there’s a catastrophe,” said Lt. Gen. Mohammad Rajab, the head of maintenance for the Salang Pass.

The Salang tunnel is also prone to deadly avalanches. Nordland reports that what was once a one-day trip from Kabul to the Uzbekistan border, can now take between 8 and 10 days because of increased traffic and the deterioriation of roads. That bottleneck seems likely to worsen as the evacuation gets going. 

Via @joshuakucera

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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