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NATO strikes Afghan transit deal with Kazakhstan

By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
  • NATO is expected to begin moving supplies via Kazakhstan in days
  • Agreement allows up to 4,000 flights a year
  • Deal eases NATO reliance on routes from Pakistan vulnerable to Taliban attacks
  • Afghanistan
  • Kazakhstan
  • NATO

London, England (CNN) -- On the eve of a conference here Thursday on Afghanistan, NATO has signed an agreement with the foreign minister of Kazakhstan allowing transit through Kazakhstan of supplies for NATO and coalition forces.

The agreement allows for supplies to start moving by air from Europe to Afghanistan "in the coming days," according to a statement from NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The agreements are important because they reduce the alliance's use of routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan that have been attacked by the Taliban.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday in London that a separate July agreement between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev allowing flights of U.S. military equipment through Russian airspace to Afghanistan, is set up but "running more slowly than we would have liked."

That agreement allows up to 4,000 flights a year. The U.S. official said at least three flights have gone and that "technical issues" have been smoothed over.

The one-day London conference on Afghanistan, organized by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, is highlighting European civilian and foreign aid contributions to Afghanistan. Voters in all of those countries have been skeptical about Europe's contribution of troops to the conflict.

NATO also announced that Germany is adding 850 more soldiers and will contribute more to the training mission in Afghanistan.