Pakistan has reopened the vital Torkham border crossing point to NATO supply trucks destined for Afghanistan. The crossing point was closed late on Sept. 5, the same day the Pakistani military threatened to retaliate against the US for conducting attacks against the Taliban and al Qaeda inside Pakistan.
Pakistan’s defense minister said the border closure was meant to show the US that it would not tolerate airstrikes and raids inside its borders, Daily Times reported.
“We have told them that we will take action and we have already taken action today,” Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said. “We have stopped the supply of oil and this will tell how serious we are.”
The US has recently stepped up attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda safe houses and training camps inside Pakistan’s tribal areas of North and South Waziristan over the last week. The US has conducts five strikes in the Waziristans in the past week, including a controversial helicopter assault in a village along the border.
But other Pakistani officials are maintaining that the border crossing was closed due to a deteriorating security situation. Rahmin Malik, the advisor to Prime Minister Gilani on internal security, said the road was closed after members of the security forces protecting the road to Afghanistan were kidnapped.
“The NATO supplies were temporarily halted after around 20 soldiers of the Frontier Constabulary were captured by the militants in the area from where the supplies cross into Afghanistan,” Malik told Dawn. “In fact, let me tell you that three trucks carrying NATO supplies were attacked en route to Afghanistan, compelling the government to secure the area.”
An estimated 70 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.
Scores of NATO supply trucks have been destroyed or damaged in Taliban attacks along the road through Khyber over the past year. The government launched an operation to clear the Lashkar-e-Islam, a local Taliban groups that controls much of the agency. The military ended the operation after 10 days, and signed a peace agreement with the group.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.