NATO: Central Asian Nations Approve Afghanistan Exit Routes

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2012 — NATO has reached agree­ments with Kaza­khstan, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Uzbek­istan to allow troops and equip­ment to tran­sit these Cen­tral Asian nations to and from Afghanistan, NATO’s sec­re­tary gen­er­al said yes­ter­day.

“These agree­ments will give us a range of new options and the robust and flex­i­ble trans­port net­work we need. I thank all three part­ner coun­tries for their sup­port,” Ras­mussen told reporters dur­ing his month­ly brief­ing from NATO head­quar­ters in Brus­sels.

NATO will con­tin­ue to active­ly engage with Afghanistan’s neigh­bors,” he added, “to build wider sup­port for the country’s sta­bil­i­ty.”

Dur­ing a brief­ing at the Pen­ta­gon today, spokesman Navy Capt. John Kir­by said the Unit­ed States also has bilat­er­al agree­ments with the three nations through the North­ern Dis­tri­b­u­tion Net­work, to move goods in and out of Afghanistan.

“We are very appre­cia­tive for those arrange­ments and con­tin­ue to use them,” Kir­by added.

Such ground routes are need­ed to sup­ply the war in Afghanistan and will be crit­i­cal as the com­bat role of NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force comes to an end in 2014, and troops and equip­ment begin to make their way home.

Short­er routes through Pak­istan have been closed since Novem­ber, after a cross-bor­der inci­dent involv­ing NATO troops in Afghanistan mis­tak­en­ly killed 24 Pak­istani sol­diers. Defense Depart­ment and NATO offi­cials have said that nego­ti­a­tions are under­way with Pak­istan to reopen the routes.

Kir­by said defense offi­cials “do believe hav­ing the ground gates open at Chaman and the Torkham gates [on the bor­der between Pak­istan and Afghanistan] for the flow of coali­tion traf­fic in and out of Afghanistan remains valu­able.”

He added, “And we con­tin­ue to be in dis­cus­sions with our Pak­istani coun­ter­parts about try­ing to get those gates open and, in gen­er­al, try­ing to improve the rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan writ large.”

In Brus­sels, Ras­mussen said he invit­ed Pak­istan Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zardari to last month’s NATO sum­mit in Chica­go, dur­ing which “Pres­i­dent Zardari con­firmed that it is his clear inten­tion, it is the inten­tion of Pak­istan, to engage pos­i­tive­ly in find­ing solu­tions to the con­flict in Afghanistan.”

The sec­re­tary gen­er­al declined to com­ment on details of the nego­ti­a­tions with Pak­istan, adding, “I’ll just reit­er­ate that I still hope that a solu­tion can be found in the very near future.”

At the same time, he said, “we actu­al­ly con­clud­ed a num­ber of very impor­tant tran­sit agree­ments at the Chica­go sum­mit and of course that will con­tribute in a very pos­i­tive way to our oper­a­tion in Afghanistan as we grad­u­al­ly wind down our com­bat oper­a­tion towards the end of 2014.”

NATO already has a reverse tran­sit arrange­ment with Rus­sia, Ras­mussen added, “and the fact that we have now con­clud­ed … three con­crete tran­sit arrange­ments with Cen­tral Asian coun­tries at the Chica­go sum­mit will make the use of the Russ­ian tran­sit arrange­ment even more effec­tive.”

The sec­re­tary gen­er­al also declined to com­ment on details of the Cen­tral Asian tran­sit agree­ments but said, ” … We have con­clud­ed agree­ments that are of mutu­al sat­is­fac­tion of the involved part­ners.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)