The Afghanization of Central Asia

Alexander Cooley in Eurasianet:

ScreenHunter_01 Dec. 12 09.55 US officials now view Central Asia as instrumental to operations in Afghanistan. Over the last year, the US military has established the so-called Northern Distribution Network (NDN) – a set of commercial agreements with each of the Central Asian states to allow the transit of cargo to supply US forces in Afghanistan. The creation of this web of re-supply routes was deemed essential after militants succeeded during summer of 2008 in seriously disrupting the main US supply routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

A key assumption that underpins NDN, as envisioned by the US commander, Gen. David Petraeus, is that the provision of economic benefits to Central Asian states will give their governments a clear stake in the coalition campaign in Afghanistan. NDN proponents also claim that the network will improve Central Asia’s ailing transportation infrastructure and improve the economic fortunes of remote and impoverished parts of the region by linking them to trans-national trade routes.

Already, the US military is shipping an estimated 30 percent of its Afghan supplies through NDN and hopes to move tens of thousands of containers a year. Under the troop surge, NDN will become even more critical to US war efforts.

But by conceptualizing Central Asia as a logistical appendage to Afghanistan, US planners are missing an opportunity. The Pentagon, and Washington in general, is not formulating a longer-term strategy that confronts the internal challenges of each of the region’s countries. Even worse, US policy planners may be unwittingly exporting Afghanistan’s security and governance crisis to its Central Asian neighbors.

More here.