News / Middle East

Forces Removing Equipment From Afghanistan Keep Eye on Russian Route

Fears Russia-NATO Tensions Could Disrupt Afghan Withdrawali
Henry Ridgwell
May 01, 2014 2:56 PM
International forces in Afghanistan are working through the mammoth task of shipping most of their vehicles and equipment out of the country, as the December 2014 withdrawal deadline approaches. One of the routes being used transits Russia, and there are fears that the growing confrontation between the West and Moscow over Ukraine could severely disrupt NATO's withdrawal plans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Fears Russia-NATO Tensions Could Disrupt Afghan Withdrawal
Henry Ridgwell
How to remove millions of tons of equipment from a landlocked country with primitive infrastructure?
That’s the challenge facing international military forces in Afghanistan as they work through the mammoth task of shipping most of their vehicles and equipment out of the country as the December 2014 withdrawal deadline approaches.
And there are new fears that a key transport route that transits Russia could be shut down.

The so-called Northern Distribution Network connects Afghanistan overland with ports in the Black Sea, and also with Baltic ports via Central Asia, the Caucasus and Russia.

There are fears that NATO’s deteriorating relations with Russia over its actions in Ukraine could lead to Moscow shutting down the route to the Baltic.

Andrew Foxall, of the British-based think-tank the Henry Jackson Society, said Russian President Vladimir Putin may use this tactic.

“In early April NATO halted all collaboration with Russia and there are suggestions over the last few days that NATO’s offices in Moscow will be closed down. So in that sense, I think it’s increasingly likely that Putin will play this card, the ace in the pack effectively that he has, with regards to NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Foxall said.

The cost of the U.S. withdrawal alone is estimated at $6 to 7 billion. NATO as a whole has already shipped 86,000 vehicles and containers.

Viable alternative routes have allowed the operation to move ahead of schedule, said retired British Brigadier Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“The other route is the land route over the passes from Pakistan down to Karachi and thence by sea. And in addition, many NATO countries have been flying a lot of their heavy equipment out of Afghanistan, usually to a port in the region,” Barry said.

Barry said there are good reasons why Russia would not want to disrupt the route out of Afghanistan.

“The countries that are doing this are paying good, solid Western cash for this,” he said.

But for Putin, economics often comes second to strategy, Foxall said.

“Russia receives about $1 billion a year from NATO for NATO using Russian territory for transit purposes. But as we’ve seen in Ukraine, in Crimea, I don’t necessarily think that the economic costs are high on Putin’s agenda when he’s making these geopolitical calculations,” he said.

Moscow supported the West after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the fear that Afghanistan could again become an exporter of terrorism unites Russia and the West, Barry said.

“In the inner councils of the Russian government, for example in its National Security Council, there will be voices arguing for making sure that security transition in Afghanistan happens as well as it could do because the last thing Russia needs is more instability on another of its borders,” he added.

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Comment Sorting
by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
April 30, 2014 6:42 PM
There is no need or urgency to remove the military equipment of the US, NATO and the coalition forces from Afghanistan because: (1) the US will be permitted to retain some military bases in Afghanistan by the new government that takes charge in Afghanistan after the elections, (2) how could US and the coalition partners desert Afghanistan taking away all their military equipment from Afghanistan? (3) The transfer of the military equipments to the country of origin, costs more than the military equipments itself, (4) why don't the coalition forces give the Afghanistan the equipment the coalition forces are trying to take away from Afghan soil, (5) if the coalition forces wish to transfer the military equipment from Afghanistan, the best and cheaper alternative is the transportation of such military equipment through Pakistan and shipping to the respective destinations, and (5) Russia will not dare to close the route of transfer of military equipments from Afghanistan by land route, since one billion dollars is still attractive as transit fees for the Russians, (7) What kind of military training was given to Afghans without the privilege of using modern weapons?, and (6) Afghanistan needs these military equipments to defend itself from the expected surge in the Taliban attacks when the coalition forces leave the country. Are the US and the coalition forces using the withdrawal of military equipments from Afghanistan, to force them to depend on retaining the US forces in Afghanistan? It is better to cancel Russian transit fees for shipment of military equipments through their territory and switch to the Pakistan route as punishment for Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
April 30, 2014 8:59 PM
Davis, -- I agree with you 100% and if the US really wanted to help the Afghans, they'd do as you say. .... REALLY?

by: a from: asd
April 30, 2014 5:28 PM
$7 billion for our withdrawal alone! How about letting the world go to hell. They can pay for their defense if they want to. The U.S. is no longer able to afford a military to run the world, have fun. Let China pay for it, they have a larger economy than the U.S.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
April 30, 2014 8:24 PM
The US spends over 640 billion dollars on defense, and has troops stationed all over the world, and interferes in more armed conflicts than any other country, and defends against numerous enemies, real and imagined...
China on the other hand, spends over 188 billion dollars on it's defense of the Chinese motherland, (wherever that may be?), and doesn't involve itself in anybody else's military conflicts?
The wise man said; - The hundreds of billions of tons of used military equipment would be of more use to the Afghan government and military, and it is already outdated and of no use to the US military now..
IF the US was going to train the Afghan military as promised, they'd gave them modern military equipment, (and the refurbished attack helicopters and outdated refurbished fighter planes, they promised?), instead of the used AK-47s and Toyota pickup trucks they've been providing them with?

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