Nato signs deal to move Afghan equipment via Central Asia

Pakistani drivers drink tea on top of an oil tanker, which was used to transport Nato fuel supplies to Afghanistan but is now parked with other tankers in a compound in Karachi. June 4 2012 Oil tankers that once transported fuel from Pakistan to Nato forces in Afghanistan now sit unused

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Nato has signed deals with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to use their territory for evacuating vehicles and military equipment from Afghanistan.

The agreement will allow the military alliance to bypass Pakistan, which has blocked Nato from using its territory in a disagreement over drone strikes.

Nato will begin pulling troops and equipment out of Afghanistan in earnest later this year.

This deal means it can return equipment to Europe overland via Russia.

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the Central Asian deals on Monday.

He told a press conference: "These agreements will give us a range of new options and the robust and flexible transport network we need."

Route issues

The US-led Nato operation in Afghanistan is due to wind down completely by the end of 2014.

Tens of thousands of vehicles, containers and arms will have to leave them. The force has already started pulling out some equipment.

Pakistan is the easiest and cheapest route out of landlocked Afghanistan, but it has been closed to Nato forces for six months.

Islamabad shut down the southern supply routes after US airstrikes accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, forcing Nato to switch mostly to the so-called Northern Distribution Network through Central Asia, the Caucuses and Russia.

The US has been negotiating with Pakistan to try and reopen the southern route, but talks have made little progress so far.

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