Azerbaijan, Baku, May 22 / Trend E. Kosolapova/
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta expressed his appreciation to several Central Asian nations for allowing the transit of troops and goods through their territory to supply the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, U.S. Forces Press Service reported.
"Panetta met with senior ministers from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and expressed his deep appreciation for their support of the Northern Distribution Network, which is key to supplying ISAF forces in Afghanistan," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
The meeting occurred at the NATO summit in Chicago.
The Northern Distribution Network took on added importance in supplying ISAF troops in Afghanistan after Pakistan closed cross-border supply routes into the country in November. The closure followed the accidental deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers killed in a NATO airstrike along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
"Panetta also provided assurances that the United States is committed to an enduring security relationship, including after 2014, with Afghanistan and the region to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists," Little said in a written statement.
In addition, the Pentagon spokesman said Panetta and his NATO counterparts emphasized the need to step up cooperation on economic development in Afghanistan and the Central Asian region.