December 30, 2008

U.S. plans new supply route for Afghanistan war

By: David Donadio

The Times reports welcome news today from Afghanistan:

WASHINGTON — The United States and NATO are planning to open and expand supply lines through Central Asia to deliver fuel, food and other goods to a military mission in Afghanistan that is expected to grow by tens of thousands of troops in the months ahead, according to American and alliance diplomats and military officials.

The plan to open new paths through Central Asia reflects an American-led effort to seek out a more reliable alternative to the route from Pakistan through the strategic Khyber Pass, which was closed by Pakistani security forces on Tuesday as they launched an offensive against militants in the region.

The militants have shown they can threaten shipments through the pass into Afghanistan, burning cargo trucks and American Humvees over recent weeks. More than 80 percent of the supplies for American and allied forces in Afghanistan now flow through Pakistan.

But the new arrangements could leave the United States more reliant on cooperation from authoritarian countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which have poor records when it comes to democracy and human rights.

The officials said delicate negotiations were under way not only with the Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan, but with Russia, as well, to work out the details of new supply routes. The talks show the continued importance of American and NATO cooperation with the Kremlin, despite lingering tension over Russia’s August war with Georgia.

As Rahm Emanuel might say, “this is important. Don’t f*ck this up.”

Three cheers for Robert Gates.

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