Uzbekistan Provides British RAF with Afghanistan Pullout Route
The Uzbek Senate has approved a deal allowing Britain's Royal Air Force to to use the country's airpsace to move its equipment out of Afghanistan north through Central Asia and Russia.
The agreement stops short of allowing RAF aircraft to land on Uzbek territory. If they need to make an emergency landing, the British authorities must notify the Uzbek side about the need to land on the republic's territory.
This deal cements Central Asia's strategic importance to NATO which can avoid Pakistan, previously its transit route of choice.
NATO's agreement with Uzbekistan, accused of using child labor to pick cotton harvest, has been heavily criticized in the West, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti points out in a report.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier said the agreements with the Central Asian republics "will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need."
The reverse transit agreement between NATO and three Central Asian countries - Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan - is for "non-lethal goods" only.
NATO countries have amassed equipment worth tens of billions of dollars in Afghanistan over more than a decade.
Britain has an estimated GBP 3 B worth of equipment to bring home from Afghanistan. Some of the armored vehicles will have a long-term role in the Army.