Is NATO Moving Beyond Pakistan?

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer recently said that he would like his organization to have a “political dialogue” with Pakistan as “instability there breeds instability in Pakistan.”

Pakistan, he said, is “part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

But NATO is actively considering the reduction of Pakistan’s role in its operations.  As much as 80% of NATOs fuel and other supplies for its Afghanistan mission pass through Pakistan.  Increasingly, supply lines in Pakistan are under attack, particularly in the Khyber Agency, and the new civilian government in Islamabad is reviewing Pakistan’s war on terror role. [Though Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi asserted today that the United States and Pakistan are "allied" and "partners in the war on terror" that "have many shared interests."]

NATO and Russia are engaged in talks in Bucharest on having the latter and former Soviet republics serve as an alternative supply route.

Anwar Iqbal of Dawn writes:

“Under the proposed agreement, Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a military alliance of former Soviet republics, will jointly guarantee an interrupted supply of essential goods to the Nato forces.”

The specific route is unclear, but it will likely run from Russia and Kazakhstan through Uzbekistan.  The 1980s Soviet supply route into Kabul and Bagram ran down the Salang Highway, via Termez in what’s now Uzbekistan.  Relations between Washington and Tashkent have recently warmed a bit after three years of decline.  Russia also has plans to connect Termez and Mazar-i Sharif by a rail bridge.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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