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The third route also starts in Latvia and goes through Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and heads into Afghanistan via Tajikistan.

The United States has increased its reliance on the Northern Distribution Network, the report said, but it “is not a perfect substitute for the current supply routes in Pakistan.

For example, the Northern Distribution Network allows for only one-way transit of goods to Afghanistan, though discussions reportedly are under way to expand the network to support two-way transit of cargo leaving Afghanistan via the northern routes.

Shipping through the network is also costly - an additional $10,000 per 20-foot container - compared with going through Pakistan.

Separate from the network, the U.S. relies on the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan to transport American and coalition forces. Manas also serves as an air refueling site for aircraft heading to Afghanistan.

In highlighting the role of the five former Soviet states - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - the report said modest U.S. investments in the region could produce a significant payoff, especially as the United States looks to stabilize Afghanistan for the planned U.S. drawdown through 2014.

The prospect of U.S. troops leaving unnerves the region, the report said.

Afghanistan’s neighbors fear the 2014 security transition and withdrawal of coalition forces could mean abandonment,” the report said.

It said government officials told the Senate aides in meetings that they fear the transition will increase drug trafficking and create a security vacuum that extremist groups, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Islamic Jihad Union, would fill.

“Transitioning security and governance to the Afghans does not mean America’s departure, and I want Pakistan to hear that loud and clear,” said Mr. Kerry, who has made several trips to Pakistan.

“And I want Afghans and the neighbors to hear that loud and clear. America is not retreating from its interests. We’re really trying to be more effective about the way in which we’re going to support them.”

The report recommends economic assistance for some of the Central Asian nations and investments in English-language training and public-private projects on cross-border electricity, especially as China, Russia, Iran, South Korea, India, Japan and Turkey play bigger roles.

The report says Russia is expanding its influence through military bases and commercial agreements, and may redeploy troops to the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. China is making financial investments and spending money on infrastructure.

Total U.S. assistance to the Central Asian nations, including security and economic aid, was about $436 million last year, compared with about $15 billion for Afghanistan.

“You look at things like flood control or seeds for crops, or cattle for a community, or things like that, that are not that expensive,” Mr. Kerry said. “Boy, does that make a difference.”