Meanwhile, there’s also the problem of Afghanistan — the “real war,” as Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry used to describe it. Now they want to disengage, and the Ukraine crisis creates a very uncomfortable problem: The U.S. needs Moscow’s cooperation as it withdraws the more than 33,000 troops left in Afghanistan because one of its main withdrawal routes runs through Russia.
The Pentagon began developing a supply route from Afghanistan through Central Asia and Russia because of frequent disruptions on the main routes through Pakistan, including a seven-month closure in 2011-12 stemming from the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops in a NATO air raid. A three-month blockade by a provincial government in Pakistan’s northwest in protest over the U.S. drone strike policy only ended Thursday after a court ordered it stopped.
Russia has allowed NATO to develop a transit hub at a base in Ulyanovsk to move cargo by air, road and train from Afghanistan through the country to its northern ports. At least a third of the cargo coming out of Afghanistan is expected to move by that route — if Moscow doesn’t shut it down.