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NATO will exit Afghanistan as Soviets did, through Central Asia

NATO signs deals with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan to truck its military supplies from Afghan war out through Central Asia, giving it options instead of closed Pakistan route.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / June 5, 2012

A NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) walks toward the police checkpoint in Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, last week. NATO will exit Afghanistan through Central Asia, the same route the Soviet troops took after their withdrawal.

Rahmat Gul/AP

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NATO may not know the final result of its intervention in Afghanistan, but it now has an exit plan. And the exit will take place through Central Asia, the same route the Soviet troops took after their withdrawal in 1988 and 1989.

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As relations worsen between the United States and Pakistan, NATO has signed deals with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan (see map here) to move out the tons of equipment that must be withdrawn by 2014, when NATO makes its final exit from Afghanistan.

Speaking with Agence France-Presse news agency, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that NATO now considers Central Asia and its Russian-built roads to be the most expedient route out of Afghanistan.  

"These agreements will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need," Mr. Rasmussen said.

Tarnished by more than a decade of war, mutual recriminations, and foreign policy goals that are increasingly at odds, the US-Pakistani relationship now has reached a nadir. From the early post 9/11 days, when NATO received 90 percent of its supplies for the Afghan war through the Pakistani port of Karachi, now Pakistan has cut off NATO’s old supply routes. Last November, Pakistan banned NATO’s use of Pakistani territory after NATO planes mistakenly bombed a Pakistani post, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.

For Pakistan, the NATO bombing was the last straw, following the violation of its territorial sovereignty last year when US Navy SEALs captured and killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

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