Citing a desire to help Afghanistan in "matters of humanitarian concern," Turkmenistan's leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, announced February 25 that Turkmenistan will permit US and NATO planes to ferry non-military goods to troops in Afghanistan across the Central Asian country's airspace.
"We do not mind the transit of [US] humanitarian cargo through our air corridor," the official Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Berdymukhamedov as saying at a news conference in Tashkent on February 25.
Berdymukhamedov's announcement came at the end of an official visit to neighboring Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan's willingness to participate in the northern supply network that the United States has assembled in recent weeks is a significant development, given that in the recent past Ashgabat has adhered to a steadfastly neutral position.
Turkmenistan's over-flight permission is "very good for the Americans while they don't know if they'll be able to use Manas [air base in Kyrgyzstan] or not," said Paul Quinn Judge, the Central Asia Project Director for the International Crisis Group. "It's a great consolation prize." [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Berdymukhamedov also stands to benefit, Quinn-Judge added. The Turkmen leader can now "show a certain degree of solidarity with the international community over Afghanistan" while securing some measure of domestic security. "Turkmenistan has a long border with Afghanistan that may not remain quiet forever."