CHICAGO: With Pakistan continuing to send mixed signals about whether and when it would reopen supply routes to NATO, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta plans to meet tomorrow with representatives of five countries who make the so-called Northern Routes into and out of Afghanistan possible.

Panetta “will meet tomorrow with five countries that support the northern distribution network to thank them, and to note the contributions of others, including Russia,” a senior defense official told Breaking Defense. The countries are: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters this morning he hopes for Pakistani commitments to provide NATO access to the much shorter supply routes but word here is that no one is holding their breath, even though Pakistan did allow supplies for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to transit their country on Friday. Of course, military supplies and stuff for an embassy are not quite the same types of cargo.

The U.S. recently won permission from the Northern Route countries to send non-lethal gear as well as wheeled armored vehicles to enter and leave Afghanistan. However, weapons must still be flown and that would include heavy weapons such as tanks. But the Pakistani routes carried about two-thirds of NATO equipment, clearly demonstrating their shorter distance.

Keep reading →