Score one for the outgoing Bush administration in the war on terror. The US reached agreement with Russia and other central Asian nations to allow supply lines for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan. This will allow for alternatives to transmitting materiel through Pakistan:
Russia and neighboring Central Asian nations have agreed to let supplies pass through their territory to American soldiers in Afghanistan, lessening Washington’s dependence on dangerous routes through Pakistan, a top U.S. commander said Tuesday.
Securing alternative routes to landlocked Afghanistan has taken on added urgency this year as the United States prepares to double troop numbers there to 60,000 to battle a resurgent Taliban eight years after the U.S.-led invasion. …
U.S. and NATO forces get up to 75 percent of their “non-lethal” supplies such as food, fuel and building materials from shipments that traverse Pakistan, a volatile, nuclear-armed country.
Russia had blown hot and cold on allowing NATO supply lines into Aghanistan. Besides simply resenting the Western aid that defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, Vladimir Putin has bitterly opposed NATO expansion into former Soviet satellites such as Ukraine and Georgia. At the same time, Russia doesn’t need radical Islamists on the loose in the region, and better to have NATO engaged in that war and tied down in Afghanistan than having the Russian Army dealing with the problem themselves.
This could change the politics in the region considerably. The US has had to act cautiously with Pakistan to preserve the lines of communication into Afghanistan. Those routes are still the most direct and least expensive, but even with more expensive alternatives, the US and NATO can act more forcefully with Islamabad. We can cut off aid or use other pressures to get the Pakistanis to start attacking the terrorists that have created safe havens in the frontier provinces.
Pakistan may already realize that. They announced yesterday a successful mission which killed 60 Islamist militants in Mohmand. Mohmand is adjacent to Bajur, where the Pakistanis have actively fought Islamist terrorists for months. The announcement indicates that the Pakistanis have begun to seriously expand the fight geographically — or at least want to be seen as doing so.