Russia and neighboring Central Asian nations have agreed to let supplies pass through their territory to American soldiers in Afghanistan, reducing Washington’s dependence on dangerous routes through Pakistan, a top U.S. commander said Tuesday.
Securing alternative routes to landlocked Afghanistan has taken on added urgency this year as the United States prepares to double the number of troops there to 60,000 to battle a resurgent Taliban more than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion.
U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces get up to 75% of “nonlethal” supplies, such as food, fuel and building materials, from shipments that cross Pakistan, a volatile, nuclear-armed nation.
The main road through the Khyber Pass in the northwest of the country has occasionally been closed in recent months because of attacks by bandits and Islamist militants.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the chief of U.S. Central Command, said the United States had struck deals with Russia and several Central Asian states near or bordering Afghanistan during his tour of the region in the last week.
Few analysts expect Washington to abandon the Pakistani routes altogether -- unless they become too risky -- because they are the shortest and cheapest. The goods arrive in the southern Pakistani port of Karachi.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani army said Tuesday that it had killed 60 militants in the Mohmand tribal area near the Afghan border, a lawless region believed by many to be the hiding place of Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.
Also Tuesday, police said suspected Taliban militants killed six alleged U.S. spies in a tribal region, where American missile attacks have reportedly killed several Al Qaeda leaders in recent months.