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The Northern Passage: Setting up and building on the so-called Northern Distribution Network has helped save time and money in supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, Gen. Duncan McNabb, US Transportation Command boss, said Friday. As of mid 2010, an average of 574 20-foot-equivalent units of cargo travelled weekly into Afghanistan along NDN routes, he told attendees at AFA's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. These routes stretch from the Baltic and Caspian ports through Russia and the Central Asian republics into Afghanistan. On any given week, some 10,326 containers are on the network on their way, he said. These transit routes, which are utilized primarily by commercial carriers, now carry about 35 percent of the cargo entering Afghanistan, he said. Combining the NDN with other routes has helped relieve some of the stress and risk of relying on more volatile land routes through Pakistan, through which about 35 percent of Afghan-bound cargo transits. That's down from about 50 percent last spring. Airlifting materiel into Afghanistan has risen in that time, going from 20 percent last spring to 30 percent this past fall, said McNabb.