Peripheral Nation-Building

If you’re wondering why the U.S. is turning a blind eye to reports of irregularities in the Kyrgyz presidential election, and so eager to arrange Russian transit routes for Afghanistan supply logistics, this Deirdre Tynan article for EurasiaNet on the disappointing initial results from the recently negotiated Central Asian land routes — known as the Northern Distribution Network — is a good place to start:

In June and July, according to publicly available data, only sevencontainers a day on average were arriving in Afghanistan via the NDN. Acommercial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, characterizedthe performance as “ridiculous.” Railway experts have also questionedwhether the Uzbek rail route, which crosses the Afghan border atTermez-Hairaton, is capable of handling the amount of trafficenvisioned by the U.S. military and its allies.

David Brice, aninternational rail consultant who made recommendations on upgrading thecapacity of Hairatan two years ago, said the depot remainsunder-equipped to deal with a large volume of traffic. “There willcertainly be a capacity problem in the Termez-Hairatan section, whichtwo years ago was handling its full capacity of three or four trainsdaily without the U.S. traffic,” Brice said.

In other words, supplying the primary war effort actually requires secondary infrastructure development in neighboring countries — something akin to peripheral nation-building.

That puts the extra cost of air transport, as well as the sweeteners that went into securing the Manas base, into perspective.