NATO may ask China to help with Afghanistan war effort: report

China may be called on to help the Afghanistan war effort by possibly opening a supply route for alliance forces, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

China may be called on to help with the Afghanistan war effort by possibly opening a new supply route for alliance forces, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

The remark was made ahead of a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization foreign ministers — including Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — that started Monday in Brussels.

No firm decision has yet been made to approach the Chinese government, the official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, given the sensitivity of the topic.

But one option could be to ask China to open an alternate logistics route through western China into Afghanistan, the official said.

China and Afghanistan share a sparsely populated, 76-kilometre border in the Wakhan Corridor, which separates Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Once used as a caravan route by Marco Polo, the 2,000-year-old dirt road traverses the mountains.

Ongoing diplomatic efforts have tried to secure alternative supply routes to Afghanistan to boost the main lines through Pakistan, which have come under increasing attacks by Taliban guerrillas.

Having tangled with Islamic militants in its western regions, China has been generally supportive of the allied effort in Afghanistan, but the country has resisted allying itself too closely with the war.

NATO to ask allies to provide 4 extra battalions

NATO requires more access into landlocked Afghanistan, particularly after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that 17,000 more U.S. troops would be sent to reinforce the 56,000 allied soldiers already there.

Opening a new route from Iran to western Afghanistan is another idea that has been suggested by officials.

In addition, NATO will ask allies to come up with four additional infantry battalions — with about 850 soldiers each — to be temporarily deployed to Afghanistan during the presidential election this spring or summer, the U.S. official said.

In a statement Monday, Cannon said he was looking forward to the NATO talks.

"Canada is strongly committed to NATO and views this 26-country alliance as the primary forum for security consultation between Europe and North America."

With files from the Associated Press