China Connection

By Sebastian Sprenger / December 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department is still eying a supply route to Afghanistan through China in addition to the existing northern and southern supply networks. Officials are timid when it comes to describing where negotiations with the Chinese stand. It appears, though, that the matter is progressing rather slowly.

In interview over the summer, U.S. Central Command logistics chief Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Down told Military Logistics Forum a China route would come in handy to transport "gear and vehicles" from the Pacific, and talks to that end involving the State Department and U.S. Pacific Command were under way.

A DOD spokeswoman would only say the situation hasn't changed since the summer, without elaborating.

One source with knowledge of the matter said Chinese economic interests could factor into how this plays out. China operates a copper mine in Logar province, south of Kabul. And Beijing was expected to build a rail connection into Badakshan province, whose thin northeastern arm provides the only border with Western China. Such a connection, the source said, is a prerequisite to making a trans-China route possible.