The Northern Distribution Network and Afghanistan

Geopolitical Challenges and Opportunities

The development of new northern supply routes into Afghanistan, termed the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) by the U.S. government, and the expanded U.S. presence in Afghanistan has had considerable impact on regional geopolitics in Eurasia. For those states now involved in the NDN (Latvia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), this cooperation has added a new dimension to their relations that increases their stakes in bilateral ties with the United States and vice versa. Washington is engaging these partners on an issue of utmost priority to U.S. security interests. Together and individually these states can play a constructive role in Afghan stabilization efforts. But persistent tensions, mistrust, paranoia, authoritarianism, and a near-exclusive focus on “regime preservation” make some of them unwieldy and volatile partners. Suspicion of U.S. intentions and commitment further complicate this calculation. Understanding the dimensions of and knowing how to manage the geopolitical challenges and opportunities associated with NDN transit states and other key players is critical for the United States.

Andrew C. Kuchins

Daniel Kimmage, Joseph Ferguson, Thomas M. Sanderson, Alexandros Petersen, Heidi Hoogerbeets, David Gordon