NATO to Afghanistan through Kazakhstan

Following on from the recent Russian agreement to let Germany ship military equipment to Afghanistan by rail, other countries are reported to be getting in on the act.

Kazakhstan: US continues to probe rail route via central Asia to Afghanistan

American military officials are continuing to press for alternative transport routes to Afghanistan, with senior commanders exploring the feasibility of a rail route through the Caucasus and Central Asia.

According to a press release issued by Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense [here], Deputy Defense Minister Bulat Sembinov met with the commander of the US Transportation Command, Duncan McNabb, to look into “opportunities for organizing transit and providing material and technical assistance to the process of reconstruction and backing forces in Afghanistan.” Earlier in November, McNabb met with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.

Separately, Kazakhstan’s transport minister, Serik Akhmetov, met Richard Hoagland, the US envoy in Astana, to discuss various transit ideas involving Afghanistan. The high level meetings in Astana follow on Russian permission to Germany to use the country’s extensive railway network to transit military goods bound for Afghanistan. It is the first time Russia has permitted a NATO ally to transit military supplies via an overland route.

A spokeswoman for NATO said the alliance was now actively pursuing agreements with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to gain access to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand trade and economic opportunities through railway transport. Zhao Xiaoyu, ADB Vice-President, said the agreement “will be taking a major step toward realizing the dream of expanded trade and economic opportunities for larger Central Asia.”

Source: Eurasianet, posted 27 November 2008
© Open Society Institute.

The Kazak Ministry of Defense’s website says:

Developing military cooperation

Today deputy minister of defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan general–lieutenant Bulat Sembinov met commander of Transport Command Staff of the USA (TRANSCOM USA) general Dunkan McNab in the defense office. During the meeting there were discussed perspectives of bilateral cooperation possibilities of transit organization, rendering material and technical assistance to the process of reconstruction and support of forces and means in Afghanistan in particularly.

USA TRANSCOM – is the one detachment which manages all the aviation, land and sea transport of the Ministry of defense of the USA. And Kazakhstan is the one state in the region which has 5 year cooperation Plan with the USA between defense offices which includes such important directions of cooperation as development f peacekeeping potential of the Armed Forces RK, improvement of Kazakhstan military education system and mutual participation in exercises.

Source: Ministry of Defense, Kazakhstan, 21 November 2008