Taliban threaten Pakistani parliamentarians over possible reopening of NATO supply routes
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has threatened to attack members of Pakistan's parliament if they vote to reopen NATO's supply lines to Afghanistan.
"If the parliament opened the land route for NATO troops, we will target members of the parliament and their party leaders," Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said today, according to Xinhua.
"We are aware that the pro-American parliamentarians have started efforts to legalize a route to NATO forces," Ihsan said.
Pakistan shut down the vital NATO supply routes in late November 2011 after a clash with US forces along the Afghan border. US forces battled Pakistani troops on the night of Nov. 25-26 after taking fire from the Pakistani side of the border. US warplanes pounded Pakistani positions in Mohmand after Pakistani troops continued to fire on US forces, killing 24 Pakistani officers and soldiers.
A NATO investigation into the incident said that errors on both sides of the border led to the clash, but found that US forces had been fired on first. Pakistan rejected the US report and refused to cooperate with the investigation. Pakistani military officials even claimed the US attack was "deliberate."
Pakistan has demanded that the US apologize for the Mohmand clash and punish US military officers who were responsible for the incident. The US has refused to apologize, and yesterday the US military said that it would not charge officers involved in the clash.
For the past week, Pakistan's parliament has been debating whether to open NATO's supply lines. Government officials have indicated that they want to charge an additional tax on NATO vehicles, claiming the trucks are destroying Pakistan's roadways. But Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the head of the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl political party, said that parliament was opposed to reopening the supply routes, and that the decision to do so ultimately rests with the government.
The US has responded to the closure of the vital Pakistan routes by moving supplies through the former Soviet Central Asian republics. The route is known as the Northern Distribution Network [see LWJ report, Analysis: The US-Pakistan relationship and the critical factor of supply]. Moving supplies to Afghanistan through the northern network is much more expensive (estimates range from three to ten times more costly) than moving supplies through Pakistan, and the northern transit times are much longer due to the greater distances and complexity of the transportation networks.
The US military has hinted that it does not expect Pakistan to reopen the NATO supply lines anytime soon. In its new strategy for eastern Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force will move some troops from Nangarhar province as well as from Kandahar to help secure areas south of Kabul [see LWJ report, ISAF's new plan for Afghanistan]. The two main supply routes from Pakistan move through Nangarhar and Kandahar. ISAF believes that Afghan security forces will be able to fill the void in those areas left by the redeployment of ISAF troops. But few Afghan analysts believe that the Afghan forces are up to the task.