Thinking Big

By Sebastian Sprenger / January 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense officials should use the Northern Distribution Network as a springboard to create an even larger web of trade routes across Asia, according to a recent report penned by researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Dubbed the "Modern Silk Road," this network of travel lanes would help foster urgently needed economic development in Afghanistan and its neighbors, the authors argue in their Dec. 17, 2009, report.

For example, administration officials should work toward new routes through Iran, China and India, the report suggests.

While the challenges associated with these routes are apparent, the United States should put forth a concerted effort to gain access to them. (After all, who could have predicted that U.S. military supplies would be traversing Russia and Uzbekistan?)

During the last year Pentagon officials readied a vast network of supply routes used for shipping military supplies from Europe to the war in Afghanistan.

At the same time, defense leaders have waived U.S. policies that would normally prohibit the Pentagon from doing business with many Central Asian countries allowing NDN shipments through their territories.