U.S., Kazakhstan sign agreement easing air transit to Afghanistan
The United States and Kazakhstan have signed an agreement opening new transit routes for U.S. planes carrying military personnel and equipment to Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of State said, RIA Novosti reported.
"The agreement enhances a United States-Kazakhstan arrangement, under which the United States began transit flights to Afghanistan across Kazakhstan's airspace in 2001," a joint U.S.-Kazakh statement published by the Department of State said.
"By providing access to new transit routes, Kazakhstan is providing valuable support to the international effort to defeat the violent extremism in Afghanistan and to ensure Afghanistan's and the region's security," it said.
The agreement, signed on Friday by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro and Erlan Idrissov, the Kazakh ambassador to the United States, means that U.S. planes can now use polar routes to Kazakhstan. This will save precious time and fuel needed to move troops and equipment to war-torn Afghanistan, the statement said.
The agreement was reached during a meeting between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, in Washington in April.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) currently has some 130,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to begin withdrawing troops from the country in July next year.