Chaman border crossing closed to NATO traffic


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:


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READER COMMENTS: "Chaman border crossing closed to NATO traffic"

Posted by Antoinette at September 9, 2009 6:51 AM ET:


Pakistan will not move against the shadow government in Chaman and denies that the Quetta shura exists. Why? And why does the ISAF put up with Pakistan's noncooperation in the Chaman and Quetta areas?

Posted by zotz at September 9, 2009 8:49 AM ET:

Pakistan regards the Quetta Taliban and Mullah Omar as allies. Pakistanis are engaged in the suppression of the Baluch sepratists and the Taliban are helping them with that. ISAF still relies on the southern convoys through Baluchistan. ISAF supply lines are clearly a weak link if Pakistan is unable/unwilling to defend them. The northern supply routes through the former Soviet republics are looking shaky also.

Posted by David M at September 9, 2009 9:33 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/09/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by T Ruth at September 9, 2009 10:19 AM ET:

Quite right Antoinette!

I guess the broader question is why does the ISAF put up with Pakistan's noncooperation period? After 8 yrs with a lying, double-dealing ally called Pakistan.

The fact is don't expect an intelligible answer to an elementary, pointed question like yours. The best you'll get is some fuzzy, waffly response a le Biden "because we don't want to destabilise Pakistan". Little wonder in 2008, Pakistan decorated him with a civil award for his "consistent support for Pakistan". How cute!

So much talk about resetting the strategy for Afghanistan, but what is the strategy for Pakistan? Or does it remain a wildcard?

Posted by T Ruth at September 9, 2009 11:23 AM ET:

"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....."
--------------------------------
Why not?
Especially as Bill points out, "The Taliban bases its shura majlis, or executive council, in nearby Quetta, according to US, British, and Afghan officials."
____________________________________
zotz:
"Pakistan regards the Quetta Taliban and Mullah Omar as allies."
"ISAF supply lines are clearly a weak link if Pakistan is unable/unwilling to defend them."
------------------------------------------
There are some things i don't get. So America has an ally that is allied with America's enemy? Thats what it boils down to?
Why does one put unwilling and unable in the same category? At any rate, what is America's response to such unwillingness or inability? Or is she tied up in knots by this little menace of a state, Pakistan.....eight years on and eight years after!

Posted by Toteone at September 9, 2009 12:53 PM ET:

Western self-hatred, duh.

Posted by Spooky at September 9, 2009 1:47 PM ET:

Guys, it boils down to this: Pakistan cares for its self-interest first, its sugar-daddy interests second. The Taliban in Balochistan Province gets a free pass because they keep the Baloch militias at bay. Even then, the situation in that part of the country is on the verge of breakdown thanks to Gwadar and government-sponsored assassination of local leaders. Without the Taliban's cooperation there (and this isn't even taking into account their "strategic depth" obsessions), Pakistan loses the province entirely. Thats half the country right there.

Yeah, the way it is sucks for America and all others who are victims of Taliban actions (innocent Pakistanis included), but the leadership in Islamabad all remember 1971 very well, and would rather that didn't happen again at all costs.

Posted by zotz at September 9, 2009 4:45 PM ET:

Pakistan is divided in its support for the terrorists as is Afghanistan. We have underresourced the Afghan war since 2001. In September 2004 Bush said this, "And as a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free."

We don't have enough troops to control all of Helmand or Kandahar. We have to take what the Pakistanis give us. Complaining just makes us look weak. One think is for certain, if major changes are not made, and made fast, our troops will be in a world of hurt.

Posted by KnightHawk at September 10, 2009 1:36 AM ET:

"what is America's response to such unwillingness or inability?"
---
Apparently to send them more money.

Posted by T Ruth at September 10, 2009 9:27 AM ET:

Bill, first thanks for your incisive report shedding light on what goes on across the Balochistan border, and thats a pretty long border too. Thank you also zotz, Spooky and KnightHawk for your very helpful insights. It all just reflects how complex this war is and how frustrating, especially for all those serving there to know that you have an ally whose interests and game is not really allied in sync with yours.

Sounds to me like circumstances in Balochistan are ripe for the US/NATO to get some sharp intelligence on the Taliban in this area, in order to rip some inaugural predators there. Or is this off-limits in the US/Pak understanding? (But then Pak is doing all kinds of stuff which ought also to be off-limits.)

Of course since these are helpful/good Talib to Pak the intel won't come from the ISI but does anyone have any sense of what balance of info for drone targets come from Pakistan?

Posted by Spooky at September 10, 2009 2:13 PM ET:

If the US does anything over in Balochistan to upset the balance of power in that province, I could see Pak military participation drying up while Islamabad goes to the Chinese, who in this particular case would back them up financially because of their interests in Gwadar, which is part of a larger cold war they have going with the Indians.

Also, there is a chance that the Baloch nationalist militias might take advantage of American involvement and would try to gain American support in exchange for credible intelligence (because they want them gone as much or even more than we do) on AQ and the Taliban. That would mean we would have to effectively do what the Indians did in 1971 or the Russians did last year.

Posted by Walter at September 10, 2009 9:06 PM ET:

Why not two crossing a few miles apart. One for NATO traffic and one all other traffic?

Is there a reason that is not possible?

Posted by Rhyno327 at September 12, 2009 8:52 AM ET:

Better find a way to get at them in Balochistan. This is where they live, this is TALIBANISTAN. P-stani double dealing goes way back. We dropped the ball here a long time ago, and our guys a paying dearly. All the comments above ring true, there is frustration thats building, it will boil over soon-I hope.