BRUSSELS: NATO has struck a deal with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to remove equipment through their territories as it winds down the Afghan operation, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday.
"We reached agreement on reverse transit from Afghanistan with three Central Asian partners: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan," Rasmussen said at a news conference.
"These agreements will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need," he added, without offering more detail on the accords.
The US is due to withdraw 23000 of its 130,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. France, a Nato partner, is also due to withdraw its 4000 troops from the country.
Transit routes for the withdrawal are proving a major headache for the US-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan, with massive amounts of materiel dispatched in the decade-long war to be pulled out by the end-2014 deadline from a country ringed by high mountain passes.
The Brussels-headquartered alliance is also discussing with Russia the possibility of using Vostochny airport near Ulyanovsk, 900 kilometres (560 miles) east of Moscow, as a transit centre for non-lethal equipment from Afghanistan.
Washington meanwhile continues to press Pakistan to reopen routes blocked six months ago in retaliation for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers killed by mistake by US strikes on a border post.
"I still hope that a solution can be found in the very near future," Rasmussen said.
Meanwhile, a Department of Defense spokesperson said that discussions with Pakistan on reopening the Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) continue. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Commander Bill Speaks said, "we assess these talks will take time. We hope we are able to work collaboratively toward a resolution on reopening the GLOCs, which is important to our NATO partners as well as to us."