In his latest article for PBS’ “Need to Know,” ASP Fellow Joshua Foust explains how NATO’s exit from Afghanistan is complicated by its reliance on the Northern Distribution Network (NDN):
NATO thinks this northern evacuation route gives them a way to wind down the war without having to rely on Pakistan. NATO is overselling this new deal. While the NDN certainly lessens the need for Pakistan, it is not a viable replacement for Pakistan’s supply routes.
NATO’s use of the NDN is restricted to “non-lethal goods only” and there is concern for the risk of corruption in transit states. Furthermore, despite its offer to host a base for the NATO evacuation, Russia is increasingly at odds with the US over Syria and missile defense, among other issues. Finally, the NDN does not have the capacity needed for the Afghan withdrawal, and may cost up to six times more than the southern transit routes.
In a way, the difficulty of withdrawing from Afghanistan reflects the difficulty of fighting in Afghanistan: it is never straightforward, and it’s almost impossible to make progress without making often seemingly intolerable compromises. Yet for American policymakers, there is a desperate need to end the combat phase of the war on time, by the end of 2014. And so, for now, the many problems inherent to using the NDN to drawdown from Afghanistan will be set aside for later.
Read the full article here.