Pakistan closes border crossing to NATO traffic
Pakistan has halted all NATO supply convoys into Afghanistan via the Torkham border crossing point, citing the poor security situation along the vital artery into Afghanistan.
"Hundreds of trucks and containers had been stopped in Peshawar" after the political agent of the Khyber tribal agency shut down traffic along the road, Daily Times reported. "Supplies had been suspended following incidents of looting of trucks and containers carrying oil and other supplies for the NATO forces battling Taliban in Afghanistan."
An estimated 75 percent of NATO supplies move through Khyber to resupply troops fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The bulk of NATO's supplies arrive in the port city of Karachi, move north to Peshawar, and head west to the Torkham crossing into Afghanistan and the final destination in Kabul. The rest of the supplies pass through the Chaman border crossing point in Baluchistan or arrive via air. The US has been quietly trying to secure alternate routes through central Asia.
Taliban forces and criminal elements have hijacked dozens of trucks over the past month, but the most high-profile incident occurred on Nov. 11. Taliban fighters under the command of Baitullah Mehsud, the commander of the Pakistani Taliban, looted thirteen trucks carrying wheat, supplies, and two American-made humvees. The Taliban were photographed parading the vehicles throughout the agency.
The provincial government of the Northwest Frontier Province recommended closing the road on Nov. 11 "because of the volatile security situation on the restive Pak-Afghan border," according to Daily Times. Some trucking companies are braving the roads, but are doing so without protection.
Pakistan closed the Torkham border crossing once this year. Some officials claimed it was due to the poor security, but the minister of defense and other officials cited the US airstrikes and raids targeting Taliban and al Qaeda forces in the tribal areas. The crossing was reopened the next day.
The road from Peshawar to the Torkham border crossing at the Khyber Pass has been secured by a combination of the paramilitary Frontier Corps and members of the Afridi tribe. A senior US military intelligence official expressed dismay in the performance of these local forces during a conversation with The Long War Journal. The official is also concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Peshawar.
The Taliban have been encroaching on Peshawar since last year, when its fighters began enforces sharia and pressuring businesses to establish Islamic outfits. The Pakistani military launched a military operation in Khyber last June with the goal of relieving pressure on the provincial capital. But the short-lived operation left the extremist forces operating in Khyber intact.
Since the summer, the Taliban have effectively surrounded Peshawar on three sides [see map]. The Taliban run the Mohmand tribal agency and have a strong presence in Charsadda to the North. Khyber to the East is flooded with extremists, and Arakzai to the South is also under Taliban control.
Recently Hamid Nawaza, a retired Pakistani general and military analyst described Peshawar as "besieged from all sides by the terrorists," according to Daily Times. Nawaza said the police are poorly armed and trained, and often flee during engagements with the Taliban.
Due to the poor security situation, the city has been the target of multiple suicide attacks and kidnappings and assassinations over the past several months. The last suicide attack was aimed at the chief minister of the Northwest Frontier Province on Nov. 11. He narrowly escaped the attack, but two of his bodyguards were killed.
The Taliban have also declared open season of foreign dignitaries, aid workers and journalists. The past week has seen a rash of kidnappings and assassinations against foreigners in Peshawar's so-called secured neighborhoods. A US aid worker and his driver were killed on Nov. 12. An Iranian consular official was kidnapped on Nov. 13. Two reporters were shot and wounded during a kidnapping attempt on Nov. 14.