Framing Politics and the NDN

by Joshua Foust on 2/7/2012 · 6 comments

The AP report:

Pakistan’s defense minister said Tuesday that the country should reopen its Afghan border crossings to NATO troop supplies after negotiating a better deal with the coalition.

Pakistan closed the crossings over two months ago in response to American airstrikes that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two Afghan border posts. The closure has forced the United States to spend six times as much money to send supplies to Afghanistan through alternative routes.

You can frame this two ways:

  • The U.S. is spending an exorbitant sum to send supplies through the NDN (read: Uzbekistan), so therefore everything is a failure and the silence will fall; or
  • The expansion of the NDN (read: Uzbekistan) has created sufficient political space and pressure on Pakistan that they’re finally willing to climb down and play ball on transit routs and other issues.

Of course, both frames are true, at least to a degree. In the current status quo it’s unlikely Pakistan will agree to much more than allowing the transit routes to reopen (not coincidentally further enriching the Pakistani military-run trucking mafia along the way), just as it’s unlikely paying even $87 million more per month for transit costs through Central Asia will bankrupt the U.S.

From the U.S. government’s perspective, however, they’re now getting movement out of Islamabad, and that’s really what they want. Mission accomplished, then?

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Will February 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

“…(not coincidentally further enriching the Pakistani military-run trucking mafia along the way)…”
Can you refer readers like me to resources where we can read about this? I have read plenty already how NDN profits Uzbek regime, but nothing about how it profits Pakistan or others in the region (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc.). It is hard to believe these countries are transparent to the degree that only Uzbekistan deserves disproportionate criticism.

Guy Fawkes February 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm

You are right, Uzbekistan is not the only corrupt country in the region, in fact, all the countries you have listed could be put in the same group as far as their level of corruption is concerned. However, what makes Uzbekistan so special is that it is more brutal than any country in that group and that attracts attention. You can be a 100% law-abiding citizen in Uzbekistan but it doesn’t mean that you will be left alone. No, you will still be targeted by the police for your money at a minimum. If you are a successful businessman, the prosecution board, taxation people and anybody else who can swing a club in front of your nose will shake you down for your money. If you try to defend your rights, they will intimidate you by saying they will plant narcotics on you so you are better off just by parting with your money. You will be left alone only if you can intimidate them back, saying that you have connections at high places and what they are doing may cost them their cushy jobs. I am NOT saying this doesn’t happen in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or in any other country in Central Asia or Russia because we all know that corruption and abuse of power is a part of life in that part of the world. The difference is again that in Uzbekistan ordinary people do not have any recourse and the police and others in power know that and act with impunity to do whatever they want with people. This is the reason why you see so much criticism of Uzbekistan.

Will February 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm

My point is all these CA countries are corrupt and singling out Uzbekistan, while not uttering a word about other countries points to an agenda directed against Uzbekistan by outside forces.

Metin February 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm


One registan user had written here that there were priorities when reporting about Central Asian countries. The reason why Uzbekistan gets much attention is in its strategic role in the region as well as its relative closedness relative to other countries.

There should be no problem with such attention if it reduces the likelihood of corruption. What’s problematic is irresponsible reporting that creates negative image not only about the country but also about its people.

Elena February 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I got to say, Now that US got what they wanted over their in Afganistan (which was Ben Ladin) now US should pull out and let the people handle it. After all is not the first time those countries been in this position and it wont be the last. If you ever grew up in Uzbekistan and played the Worl game in a dirt with trowing knives then you know this is exactly like this! This is all came down to who had a most power on the play ground!

Will February 7, 2012 at 5:39 pm

What is Worl game that involves throwing knives? I grew up in Uzbekistan and I don’t recall such a game.

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