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Wednesday, January 6, 2010     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Supply lines to Afghanistan from Central Asia, Pakistan called critical

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A senior defense official last month disclosed key elements of the U.S. military and allied supply routes into Afghanistan.


David Sedney, assistant defense secretary for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Afghanistan lacks rail lines and roads needed for supplying forces in Afghanistan through a new Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a system of roads used to truck in military supplies.

The supply routes are the most significant strategic elements of the U.S. strategy of pacification of the Taliban and the bolstering of Afghan police and military forces.

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“The biggest shortcoming with the NDN, as with our transit through Pakistan, is actually the entry into Afghanistan because of the legacy of history where Afghanistan's king in 1905 declared that there be no railroads into Afghanistan,” Sedney said. “The fact that there are no current rail links into Afghanistan, and once you get into Afghanistan, of course there's no rail among the different cities.”

Sedney said despite recent road construction, the lack of roads and entry points are “huge limiting factors in our ability to deliver supplies throughout Afghanistan.”

Expanding rail lines and roads, bridges and other infrastructure would boost the ability of the military to resupply troops and develop the country, he said.

The supply routes transit the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea, and then Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and also Estonia. Russia also allows both weapons and material to pass through to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and then through Tajikistan into Afghanistan. The main route goes into Afghanistan from Uzbekistan. Sedney said the danger to the northern supply routes is once they enter Afghanistan where trucks are vulnerable to attack by Taliban insurgents. He indicated that the U.S. anticipates that the Taliban will attack the northern routes, as they have continued to do to supply routes from Pakistan.

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