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UK Plans to Use Tajikistan as Afghan Exit Route

By Rustam Majid











As NATO gears up to withdraw forces from Afghanistan next year, Britain is in talks with Tajikistan about using the Central Asia as a land route.

“Tajikistan is prepared to allow its territory to be used for freight transit by the international coalition forces in Afghanistan, so there’s no question of any kind of obstacles to this happening,” Tajik foreign ministry spokesman Davlatali Nazriev told IWPR. “To date, of the states that are part of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan], Britain has approached us.”

The UK and Washington are likely to use neighbouring Uzbekistan as the major land route from bringing out military equipment.

But as Farrukh Umarov pointed out, NATO armies will have to shift large volumes of freight over a fairly short space of time, so they need to consider a range of possible routes.

At the moment, US officials are saying they do not plan to use Tajikistan as a route, but visits by senior American defence officials may indicate that this option is not off the agenda altogether.
Uzbekistan is already in talks with US and UK officials about whether in return for the use of its roads and railways, some military items could be handed over to its army at subsidised prices. 

Tajikistan, too, could stand to gain with either cut-price equipment or a straight payment for its services.

Experts in Tajikistan see possible gains in several areas – some kind of continuing security assistance from the UK, increased investor interest in their country, and improved air links with London.

“It’s a small political breakthrough,” Umarov said. “There’s an economic side to this as well as a political one.”

Rustam Majid is an IWPR-trained radio reporter in Tajikistan.

The audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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