The Chaman border crossing in Baluchistan province has been closed to NATO traffic for the second time in two weeks as a dispute between Pakistani border guards and truckers continues.
Pakistani border guards closed the crossing to traffic entering Pakistan after truckers refused to unload cargo for inspections. The Pakistani guard say weapons are being smuggled from Afghanistan into Pakistan, Dawn reported.
Afghan troops retaliated by closing the crossing to vehicles coming from Pakistan. Traffic is reported to have stacked up on both sides of the border while Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps has moved to secure the NATO convoys.
The Taliban savaged a NATO convoy further south in Quetta the same day the Chaman crossing was closed. “Eight tankers were completely gutted,” a police official told Dawn. The attack was the first in the Quetta region.
The Chaman crossing was also closed on Aug. 30 due to the same dispute. The Taliban took advantage of the stacked up traffic and attacked NATO fuel trucks parked on the Pakistani side of the border. Twenty-five NATO tankers, supply trucks, and military vehicles were destroyed in the attack.
The Chaman border crossing is the second largest route for NATO supplies into Afghanistan. Supplies travel from the port in Karachi, through Quetta and the Chaman crossing, to the final destination in Kandahar.
The largest route into Afghanistan passes through the city of Peshawar, then through the Torkham Gate in Khyber, and ends up in Kabul. The northern route has been closed down seven time over the past year due to Taliban attacks. The Pakistani Army is currently conducting an operation to clear the Lashkar-e-Islam, a Taliban-linked group, from the Bara region and the Tirah Valley in Khyber.
Chaman is a Taliban stronghold
The Taliban maintain a strong presence in Chaman, according to information obtained by The Long War Journal. The Taliban’s shadow government for Kandahar province is run out of Chaman.
Senior Taliban leaders Mullah Rahmatullah, Abdul Qayoum Zakir, Mullah Naim Barich, and Akhtar Mohammed Mansour have been publicly named by the US military as directing Afghan operations from Pakistan.
“The [Kandahar] district Taliban leaders rarely come into Afghanistan because NATO has been successful in tracking and killing them in country,” according to an expert on the Taliban’s operations in the southern province. This year, five senior Taliban commanders operating in Kandahar and neighboring Helmand province have been killed in Coalition raids.
Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operational commander for southern Afghanistan who is also known as Mullah Abdullah Zakir, is thought to operate a forward command center in the Chaman region, US military intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Zakir is a former detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.
Zakir operates from Chaman as it shields him from US and NATO operations, officials said.
“He’s untouchable in Pakistan,” one official said, noting the covert US air campaign is limited to Pakistan’s northwest. “Right now we’re not striking in Baluchistan, and Pakistan won’t move against them [the Taliban] there.”
The Taliban bases its shura majlis, or executive council, in nearby Quetta, according to US, British, and Afghan officials. The Pakistani government denies the Afghan Taliban are based in Quetta.
Map of the Chaman-Quetta-Kandahar region: