The United States has greatly expanded the use of a new supply route through Central Asia this year to send nonmilitary cargo to its troops in Afghanistan.
The United States has greatly expanded the use of a new supply route through Central Asia this year to send nonmilitary cargo to its troops in Afghanistan, a Defense Department official said on Tuesday. In the past 11 months, the United States has shipped almost 5,000 containers to its troops along the Central Asian railway route, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney. The route runs across Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
"We will expand this number (of containers) in 2010 to meet the new demand" that will be created by President Obama's decision to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, Sedney told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee.
The supply route, known as the Northern Distribution Network, is helping complement heavily burdened supply lines that run through Pakistan to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Sedney said.
Washington has been working with Central Asian governments to diversify supply routes for its troops as militants in Pakistan sometimes attack convoys.
In addition to the Northern Distribution Network on the ground, the Defense Department conducts military overflights of most countries in Central Asia, Sedney said.
Not all of the ground cargo that goes through Pakistan gets to U.S. troops, but the cargo moved through the newer Central Asian route arrives all the time. The cargo includes wood, nails and plastic sheeting for U.S. forces.
Bottlenecks are created in Afghanistan because it has no railroads, Sedney said. When the rail cargo arrives there, it has to be loaded onto trucks. A new railroad planned for Afghanistan with the help of the Asian Development Bank will help remedy this, Sedney said.
Obama earlier this month announced plans to rush 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan next year to join the roughly 68,000 already there fighting a war that began in 2001.
The troop hike means "a lot" more cargo will be needed, Sedney told Reuters after the hearing. But he declined to predict how much more would need to be shipped along the Central Asian railway route.
"That will depend on the agreements with the governments involved, and our ability to balance all the factors. I wouldn't want to limit it by saying double or tripling because it's possible it would be more than that. And, it's possible it could be less," he said.