The Taliban have temporarily shut down NATO’s main supply route into Afghanistan after damaging a bridge in Pakistan’s Khyber agencies. The strike coincided with an attack on a truck terminal in Peshawar that is used by NATO supply convoys.
A bridge that served as “a key road link” between the provincial capital of Peshawar and the Torkham border crossing was damaged after being struck by a mortar, Daily Times reported. The damage has forced the bridge in the Landi Kotal region to be shut down. The closure has halted the flow of NATO supplies into Afghanistan.
Yesterday’s attack forced the Pakistani government to shut down the supply route for the seventh time since September 2008. Another bridge in Khyber was also damaged in a bombing on Feb. 3. That attack shut down the route for several days until the bridge could be repaired.
The same day, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a packed mosque in the Jamrud district in Pakistan’s Khyber agency. More than 70 people were reported killed and another 125 were wounded.
The Taliban also attacked a NATO truck terminal along Peshawar’s Ring Road, where more than 16 terminals operate. A large, well-armed Taliban force fired rocket-propelled grenades and launched petrol bombs at NATO vehicles and containers after breaching the Farhad Terminal early this morning.
A brief firefight broke out between the Taliban and security forces called to the scene. “There were no casualties in the attack, but the fire gutted 12 trucks loaded with NATO supplies,” a police chief said according to ARY News. “We had to call reinforcements from other police stations as Taliban outnumbered the local force and were heavily armed.”
The Taliban have conducted numerous attacks on the trucking terminals in Peshawar. After a rash of attacks late last year that resulted in the destruction of more than 450 vehicles and containers, the Pakistani government had claimed it would increase security at the terminals as well as along the route in Khyber. The Taliban attacked terminals in Peshawar two nights straight on March 15-16. More than 50 containers and military vehicles were destroyed.
Just two days before today’s attack, Pakistani officials told the owners of the 16 trucking terminals not to store NATO containers or vehicles overnight, to prevent Taliban nightime attacks, The News reported. Officials previously have sought to have the trucking terminals moved from Peshawar to Punjab province in the east to avoid Taliban attacks, but district officials in Punjab protested the plans.
The government has launched multiple security operations in Peshawar and the neighboring Khyber tribal agency since last summer in an effort to push the Taliban out of the region. While the government claims the threat in Peshawar has been eliminated, the Taliban has stepped up attacks on police outposts and the trucking terminals.
NATO’s most vital resupply route for its forces in Afghanistan stretches from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Peshawar, then on through the Khyber Pass to Kabul. More than 70 percent of NATO supplies and 40 percent of its fuel moves through Peshawar.
The US military has dismissed the attacks in Peshawar and Khyber as inconsequential, but the growing Taliban insurgency in the Northwest Frontier Province, coupled with the assault on the supply lines, has forced NATO to seek alternative supply routes into Afghanistan. In late January, NATO secured an agreement with Russia to allow supplies to pass through the Central Asian republics. NATO officials have said its members could use Iranian routes to resupply its forces, and the US is also exploring the possibility of establishing routes through Iran.
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