World | Afghanistan

US supplies to Kabul via Russia to start soon

The shipment of US military supplies for Afghanistan through Russia will begin soon, news agencies quoted Russia's foreign minister as saying.

  • AP
  • Published: 23:48 February 15, 2009
  • Gulf News

Moscow: The shipment of US military supplies for Afghanistan through Russia will begin soon, news agencies quoted Russia's foreign minister as saying.

"The transit will take place literally within days," Sergey Lavrov told TV Tsentr on Saturday, according to the Interfax, ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti agencies.

Foreign Ministry officials could not be reached for comment, and the reports did not say whether the supplies would transit Russia by land or air. However, Russia announced last week that it would allow US shipments of non-lethal military supplies to Afghanistan.

Supply routes to Afghanistan for the US-led international military operation have become an increasingly critical issue in recent months amid growing militant attacks on the land routes through Pakistan that carry about 75 per cent of US supplies.

The US plans to send around 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan this year.

Concerns rose further this month when Kyrgyzstan's president announced that the Central Asian country intends to evict a US military base that is an important transit point for Afghanistan-bound troops and supplies. The base also is home to tanker planes that refuel military aircraft over Afghanistan.

The planned closure - which still must be approved by the Kyrgyz parliament - was announced shortly after Russia announced an aid package totaling more than $2 billion (Dh7.35 billion) for the impoverished country. The timing led to wide speculation that the aid and the base closure were linked.

Russian officials have denied any linkage, but the Kremlin is clearly uncomfortable with a US military presence in the ex-Soviet republic that it regards as part of its traditional sphere of influence.

But Russia recently has shown renewed willingness to help the international forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Russia also has responded favourably to President Barack Obama's go-slow approach on a proposed US missile shield in Europe and recent signs of US accord with Moscow.

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