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Friday, February 06, 2009

Afghanistan logistics and Russia

Checking the situation in Afghanistan. On Wednesday of this week, the BBC reported that Kyrgyzstan moves to shut US base at the behest of Russia.

"A draft decree on terminating the agreement on the US airbase has been sent to parliament," said Aibek Sultangaziyev.
"It is up to parliament now to decide when to hold discussions on this."
The spokesman told the BBC that the United States would have six months to close down operations after the measure was approved.
The move follows a statement by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev that the Manas air base would close.

The same article reported that Russia will provide $2 billion in loans and $150 million in aid to Kyrgyzstan. Also, even though the United States is in talks with Kyrgyzstan, it didn't know about the proposed closing.

A little later, Bloomberg reported Russia, Allies Offer to Assist U.S. in Afghanistan:

Russia and four former Soviet republics offered to help the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan even as one, Kyrgyzstan, moved forward on a decision to cut off American access to an air base used for war supplies.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the five countries, including the Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, are ready for “full-fledged and comprehensive cooperation” with NATO forces in the region. He spoke on state broadcaster Vesti-24 today.

Meanwhile, a Pakistan bridge blast cuts supply, as reported also on Wednesday by the BBC:

Suspected militants in north-western Pakistan have blown up a bridge, cutting a crucial supply link to Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Most supplies for the international forces in Afghanistan come through the Khyber Pass in Pakistan.

The AFP put it together in its report, US supply routes to Afghanistan under strain, like this:

The US military on Wednesday faced the prospect of a costly logistical headache trying to move troops and supplies into Afghanistan, after Kyrgyzstan moved to close a major US air base that served as a vital hub.
The closure would place a strain on US supply lines at a time when President Barack Obama is preparing to nearly double the 36,000-strong force in the country and amid increasing attacks on supply routes through Pakistan.
About 15,000 people and 500 tonnes of cargo move in and out of the Manas air base every month supporting the NATO force in Afghanistan as well as the Afghan army, the Defense Department said on Wednesday.
"It's of concern but it's certainly not a disaster," William Nash, a retired Army general, told AFP.

And:

As much as 80 percent of US military supplies to Afghanistan -- from fuel to heavy equipment -- pass through Pakistan, much of it over a single road that threads through the Khyber Pass linking the two countries.

And:

Although Russia was seen as pushing Kyrgyzstan to close the base in a bid to reassert its influence in the region, Moscow insisted it was ready to assist Washington in securing transit routes.
Russia in recent days had passed a "positive answer" to Washington on its requests for Moscow's help, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said.
Some reports have suggested the assistance could include sending non-lethal supplies across Russian territory by rail.

So, we get shut off from Kyrgyzstan. Russia helps Kyrgyzstan. We're asking Russia for help. Russia offers to help the U.S. This all comes as a bit of a surprise to me, but I guess it shouldn't have. In any event, it looks like Russia is going to play a role in our efforts to defeat the enemy in Afghanistan. I find that very interesting and a little disturbing.

(The AFP is Agence France-Presse. I looked it up.)

Edit to add follow-up: Wired: All Your Base Are Belong to Uzbekistan by Nathan Hodge, who seems quite knowledgeable. Also, read the comments here.

Posted by Marie at February 6, 2009 1:05 AM

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