(Reuters) – Agreements have been reached for new transport routes for Western Forces into northern Afghanistan through Central Asian states and Russia, the Chief of the U.S. Central Command said on Tuesday
General David Petraeus said those routes could supplement the shipment of supplies for Western forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan, where Taliban militants have been attacking trucks carrying goods to Western forces in land-locked Afghanistan.
The easiest non-air way of getting supplies and military equipment into Afghanistan is by ship to the Pakistani port of Karachi, and then and by truck through Pakistan and into Afghanistan.
Following are some facts about the Pakistani routes and the alternatives:
THE ROUTES AND SUPPLIES
There are two routes through Pakistan into Afghanistan, one through the Khyber Pass in northwest Pakistan to the border town of Torkham and on to Kabul. The other goes through Pakistan’s Baluchistan province to the border town of Chaman and on to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
The U.S. military and NATO have not given details of the supplies they get via Pakistan or a breakdown of how much comes on the two routes.
The U.S. Defense Department says the U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through or over Pakistan, including 40 percent of the fuel for its troops.
Pakistani customs officials say under normal circumstances, about 300 trucks with Western force supplies travel through the Khyber Pass crossing at Torkham every day, compared with about 100 through the Chaman crossing.
Petraeus did not give details of agreements on new routes but they would likely only be for U.S. supplies. The responsibility for equipping forces within NATO’s Afghan force lies with each country. Some imported supplies for the fledgling Afghan armed forces, which the United States and its allies are building up, also come through the Pakistani routes.
Khyber is one of seven so-called agencies in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The area is awash with weapons and inhabited by ethnic Pashtun tribes. Few of Pakistan’s federal laws apply and outside interference is resented. Under a system inherited from colonial Britain, a government “political agent” administers through tribal elders who are meant to maintain peace and keep open the road from the city of Peshawar through the pass to the border. Pakistani Taliban stepped up attacks on trucks last year. They have also attacked staging areas outside Peshawar and at Torkham. The attacks have disrupted supplies but the route has only been briefly closed twice since September.
The route through Chaman has been largely free of attacks on the Pakistan side, although the section passing through Afghanistan from the border town of Spin Boldak to Kandahar has seen Taliban attacks. This month, Pashtun tribesmen blocked the route on the Pakistan side for several days in a protest against security force searches for militants.
Apart from Pakistan, Afghanistan has a border with Iran to the west, Turkmenistan to the northwest, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the north, and a sliver of remote mountainous territory with China in the far northeast.
Afghan-bound supplies coming by ship would have to dock at ports in the Mediterranean (Turkey), the Black Sea (Russia or Georgia), or at other Russian ports.
From Russia, goods would most likely have to cross Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and into northern Afghanistan.
Another possibility for goods off-loaded in Georgia or Turkey could be through Azerbaijan, then across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan and then into northwest Afghanistan.
Iran could provide a convenient link from its port of Chabahar to western Afghanistan. India hopes to boost its trade with Afghanistan via this route. But tense ties with the United States would appear to rule out that route for military supplies for the U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan.