As Pakistan Ties Sour, US Looks for Options
But Central Asia expensive, with authoritarian governments
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2011 6:57 AM CDT
Worried that Pakistan might close supply routes to Afghanistan, US military officials are stepping up supply routes through Central Asia.   (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

(Newser) – As relations with Pakistan deteriorate, the US military is developing alternate supply routes to Afghanistan through central Asia, reports the Washington Post. Landlocked Afghanistan, bordered by Iran on the west and authoritarian central Asian countries to the north, is a logistical challenge at the best of times. The US wants to keep using Pakistan, as it is the cheapest and most convenient route to Afghanistan, but officials are worried that Pakistan could close supply routes, as it temporarily did last September.

“It’s either Central Asia or Pakistan—those are the two choices. We’d like to have both,” says a defense official. But delivering supplies by air can be 10 times more expensive than going through Pakistan. One truck route begins in Germany and takes 60 days for supplies to reach Bagram air base in Afghanistan. At its peak in 2009, 90% of US supplies to Afghanistan arrived by surface cargo through Pakistan; today, about 40% of supplies come from central Asia, and military planners want to raise that to 75% by the end of the year.