Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2014

How to get out of Afghanistan: NATO's withdrawal through Central Asia

Heidi Reisinger

June 2012

NATO Defense College


NATO's decision to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan has forced the Alliance to think long and hard about the "how" associated with such a withdrawal. As a result the strategic importance of the five Central Asian states Kazakhstan, Kyrrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, a politically neglected region, mostly seen as a supplier of raw materials and energy, is likely to increase significantly. During the past ten years the ISAF mission has focused its attention on Afghanistan itself. The only neighboring country taken into serious consideration has been Pakistan, as emblematically shown in the US AfPak policy approach. North of Afghanistan, the Central Asian states have been left on the sidelines and their strategic and political role has been underestimated. However, they are now back on the political agenda as an indispensable transit ground.