Northern Distribution Network (NDN)

The Northern Distribution Network project analyzes the risks and opportunities associated with new and potential supply lines into Afghanistan.

Read the Op-ed from the New York Times: "Central Asia's Northern Exposure"

As the U.S. presence in Afghanistan increases, its demand for non-military supplies in 2010-2011 will be 200-300% more than the 2008 baseline. To accommodate this increase and address ongoing concerns with Pakistani supply lines, U.S. planners have opened the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a series of commercially-based logistical arrangements connecting Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. In addition to NDN, Iran and China are also considered possible transit states.

NDN and the expanded US presence in Afghanistan will impact the geopolitical landscape of Eurasia. Key transit states will enjoy new leverage over Washington while others could apply pressure indirectly. This engagement is also a vehicle for increasing constructive U.S. interaction with transit states. Understanding and knowing how to manage these geopolitical challenges and opportunities will be critical for the United States and are core goals of this project.

While the impetus behind creating new supply lines is grounded in the military’s immediate needs, their establishment nonetheless offers a unique opportunity for Washington to further longer-term strategic goals. Prevailing in Afghanistan must include economic and political development reinforced by an expanded international commitment to the future of the region. The Obama administration is aware of these requirements and has incorporated them as core elements of its new Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy. The second goal of this project is to ensure that the expansion of supply routes and the associated increase in America’s presence include plans for sustained economic activity across Afghanistan and Central Asia, and that this is paired with renewed, long-term U.S. engagement.

Luckily, these immediate needs and long-term objectives are not mutually exclusive, but rather are reinforcing. By linking logistics with the reinvigorated development and geopolitical goals called for in the White House’s Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, this project will help the United States take responsible steps towards a viable Afghanistan that is economically and politically integrated with regional and global markets. At the same time, the project will help the United States further its interests within transit states all while expanding its logistical throughput capacity to Afghanistan.

Recent Events