A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

The Logistical Nightmare of Leaving Afghanistan – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International

In News on April 4, 2012 at 07:43

Photo Gallery: Goodbye to Afghanistan

The Logistical Nightmare of Leaving Afghanistan

Both the British and the Soviets left a country that they had been unable to pacify. The same holds true for NATO today. Afghan insurgents will presumably do everything possible to inflict pinprick attacks on NATO troops as they withdraw. And there will be plenty of opportunities, because NATO brought a great deal more weapons and military equipment to Afghanistan to hunt al-Qaida and the Taliban than the British or the Soviets did in their time. Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, will be bringing back more than 1,700 vehicles, howitzers and tanks.

This withdrawal will be militarily precarious, politically explosive and logistically complex. It will take place primarily through Afghanistan’s neighbors to the north, because the southern route through Pakistan is not seen as reliable. Besides, after Pakistan soldiers were killed in NATO air strikes, Islamabad closed that route and only now plans to reopen the road.

As a result, says General William Fraser, the commander of the US Transportation Command, the routes through the countries of former Soviet Central Asia will have top priority for the withdrawal. But this too is a difficult region, where countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are run by autocrats with poor records on human rights, which is why the Americans wanted little to do with them in the past.

Western emissaries have been on the road in Central Asia for months, bargaining, making deals and promising everything under the sun to convince the region’s potentates to cooperate. There are problems everywhere, such as in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, where the United States has maintained its most important air base north of Afghanistan until now. Now the Kyrgyz leadership is threatening not to renew its lease with Washington, meaning that the current lease would end in July 2014, just as the withdrawal from Afghanistan is in full swing. During a visit in March, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made it clear to the Kyrgyz government that the airport there is “extremely important” for the American withdrawal.


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