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Developing Gwadar as an Additional Supply Route for US Millitary

The Northern Distribution Network and the Modern Silk Road Planning for Afghanistan’s Future

A Report of the CSIS Transnational Threats Project and the Russia and Eurasia Program


Now that the U.S. government has embraced General McChrystal's recommendation to secure the city of Kandahar, it is worth asking, To what end? There are several good reasons. First, Kandahar is the largest Pashtun city in Afghanistan and the former capital of the Taliban government. Second, it is the second-largest city on the Afghan “ring toad” (Kabul is the largest) and hence must be secured and opened to easy commercial traffic if the domestic market is ever to revive. A third reason encompasses these two and is even more important for the success of the NATO mission and to the future of a fghanistan and the entire region: Kandahar is the key road connection between the new Pakistani port of Gwadar and Afghanistan and, beyond that, all Central Asia, Europe, and much of the Middle East.

Pakistan began the development of Gwadar with aid from China and has now engaged Singapore for the second phase of work. If the link to Kandahar were reopened, Gwadar would cut the transport time from Europe to Pakistan, India, and Southeast Asia substantially. Iran, with help from Russia and India, is developing a competing port at Chabahar, but it is not as well situated as Gwadar for the continental trade that is already beginning to emerge.

On Gwadar, the interests of the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are aligned. It is past time to seize this opportunity and open Kandahar to long-distance truck traffic. Gwadar will give Afghans their best hope of generating legal income through long-distance trade, and it gives Central Asians a southern alternative to shipping everything to market through distant Russia. With Kandahar now in its eye, the United States should plan to build on future success there by making the opening to Gwadar a high priority.

The principal drawback at this point is the lack of a good highway between Gwadar and Kandahar. Pentagon officials estimate the cost of upgrading this connection at about $1 billion and have made it clear that this money is not available from the Department of Defense.55 China and Singapore were the principal external funders for phases I and II of the Gwadar port. Perhaps they and other South Asian and East Asian countries that stand to benefit the most from this connection should lead the funding of the highway project.

The Northern Distribution Network and the Modern Silk Road Planning for Afghanistan’s Future
A Report of the CSIS Transnational Threats Project and the Russia and Eurasia Program


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