Posted by: Christian | August 11, 2008

Russia, Georgia, NATO and Afghanistan

How do Georgia and Afghanistan have an effect on each other? Not directly, obviously. The last time I checked Georgia had one single soldier in Afghanistan (but many in Iraq). The connection factor as I see it is the preliminary behind-closed-doors agreement for NATO supplies to transit Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to Northern Afghanistan by land. There is only so much the US and allied Air Forces can transit by cargo plane. That’s why so much material is transited through Pakistan, an increasingly problematic supply route that has been subjected to some serious attacks recently.

The initial Central Asian transit route agreement that was reached earlier this year had the approval of Russia. But now? Is it doomed? Is it just one of several bargaining chips that Russia has (the big one being energy)?

Map via Orex: Uzbekistan’s railway networks. The rail network goes as far south as the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan border city of Termez.

Afghanistan railway

Making predictions about future relations with Russia is somewhat futile. But it should be noted that this transit “agreement” was not made out of some sense of goodwill by Russia. Russian leadership has become increasingly alarmed by the resurgence of the Taliban and adjusted their Central Asian strategy accordingly. Will the transit agreement survive the current crisis over Georgia? If Russia and the United States agree on the transit deal Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will “dutifully” ratify the agreement. So all that needs to be determined is Russia’s asking price. And that price most definitely can not be determined at the moment. If the situation in the Caucasus escalates as Pakistan deteriorates then the ISAF/NATO supply strategy may be in serious trouble.

Pic: Uzbekistan bolsters its southern railway network.

Further reading: Josh Foust and


Responses

  1. Thanks for the link. It might also be worth taking a peek at Andrew Grantham’s website about the Afghan rail system.

  2. Unfortunately there is not really much of a rail system as such in Afghanistan. It is just two short lines across the frontier, one from Uzbekistan to Hayratan and one from Turkmenistan to Towraghondi. Both are just short extensions of neighbouring rail systems across the border. A similar plan for a line from Pakistan to Spin Boldak has been discussed for decades.

    More substantially, a line from Iran to Herat is now reported to be under construction, though I’m not sure if any work is really underway on the Afghan side. Anyone know?

  3. […] Asian transit route agreement that was reached earlier this year had the approval of Russia says Russia, Georgia, NATO and Afghanistan, asking Is it doomed? Is it just one of several bargaining chips that Russia has (the big one being […]


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