Britain, US Seek Northern Routes Out Of Afghanistan As Karzai Asks For Pakistan’s Help

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Context

Following Pakistan’s decision to suspend NATO Afghan supply lines and the concerns for the equipment to be hijacked by Taliban militants, Britain is exploring possibility of negotiating deals with Central Asian states of Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

UK Defense Secretary Philip Hammond has signed an agreement with Kazakhastan for allowing over flight access for the transport of equipments, while overland transit access is under negotiations. Britain is seeking alternative route through Central Asia to ship back an estimated $4 billion of its equipment, as it concluded military presence in Afghanistan.

Mr. Hammond has rejected speculations that British and allies are withdrawing from Afghanistan before successfully ending its campaign against Taliban. He said “NATO is in this for the long haul, even after we finish combat operations. We are going to pass control to an enlarged and better trained Afghan force.”

The US has also gained approval from a number of countries in Central Asia to transport military cargo out of Afghanistan. US Secretary of State has signed a separate transit agreement with Kazakhastan.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai stated on February 25 that during his visit to Islamabad, he had clearly asked Pakistani officials to play a practical role in facilitating the Afghan peace talks. Earlier, Karzai had asked Hina Rabbani Khar to produce senior Taliban officials for negotiations.

Karzai added that talks were underway with the US for a long term strategic partnership, however the pact will be signed after the US agrees to the demands of the Loya Jirga to end arbitrary arrests and night raid.