Taliban attack NATO supply lines in northwest Pakistan

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • trac says:

    Using Iranian routes for resupply would be a greater folly than the present one. The only problem with this one is TRUSTING the Pakis with this job. Apparently, they can not do the job right. Usually if you cant do the job, you would get fired. SO why not fire them and bring in people who will. Why not use contractors? They get paid well to be in bad situations. Why not? Of course the Pak government will not allow that. They would lose Intelligence operatives who are holding the Talibs’ hands in these attacks.
    To use Iran for resupply is asking for trouble. Unless NATO wants to contribute to the Iranian charity. IRGC-QF would be collecting on any and every convoy going through. Maybe even blending in their own trucks to continue their lethal aid smuggling to some insurgents.
    Its no secret that NATO lacks any resolve to properly execute their portion of this, but to consider going through a country that has repeatedly protested/demonstrated against the US and Israel would be a slap in our face. But then again, several NATO allied intel apparatus’ assisted the Iranian government during the 90’s. SO why should NATO have any solidarity now?

  • Neo says:

    Everyone seems to think of military supplies when the route through Iran is suggested. Keep in mind that much of what needs to be moved though is food, water, and fuel. Much of this could be labeled dual use for either civilian or military consumption. Moving a limited amount of basic goods through Iran might be feasible even if it is a hostile country. They might just welcome the dollars and south-eastern Iran is a particularly economically depressed area even by Iranian terms. I wouldn’t expect too much out of an Iranian route though.

  • KW64 says:

    We can move material through Iran only as long as it is not sensitive and we maintain big stockpiles in Afghanistan for the inevitable and most inconveniently timed Iranian cut off of the supply line. No doubt it will be “Taliban” forces that attack the supply route forcing Iran to cut the link.

  • KnightHawk says:

    To use Iran for resupply is asking for trouble. – I agree. Even if it works you have that route subject to the winds in Iran, which is not a position I’d like to see us in, nor a tool I would want to hand them, particularly now. However I get the sense the current administration and I guess the pentagon as well does not see it this way, or simply have their backs too the wall with this being seen as one of the less painful of several bad options.
    Rock and a hard place.

  • Neo says:

    At this point I consider the Iranian route strictly experimental. If anything gets through, I would guess civilian goods on a small scale. At best, I see it as a non-critical route for small amounts of good headed toward South and West Afghanistan. I can’t see Iran and the US coming to any sort of deal, but I could see either the UN or Afghanistan dealing on a limited fee per shipment basis.
    I could just as easily see Iran coming up with all sorts of arbitrary terms and preconditions that sink things from the very start. Iran would need a working transport route before they could even contemplate leveraging it for political gain.

  • Marlin says:

    I realize this article is unsourced, but if true, it would mean that the first shipping containers have made there way through Russia, the Central Asian republics and on into Afghanistan.

    For example, 90 cargo containers were recently shipped through the Caucasus, via Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Caspian sea and Kazakhstan, to Afghanistan. It’s also possible to ship containers across the Caspian to a port in Turkmenistan, and thence to Afghanistan. The U.S. and NATO wants to move up to 50,000 containers via these new Russian and Caucasus routes.

    StrategyPage: Logistics: The Caspian Connection To Afghanistan

  • Render says:

    One mortar round? A single round?
    Davy al-Crocket on the tube, 160mm, and a wooden bridge?

  • Marlin says:

    This article provides more information on how the U.S. and NATO are now moving supplies via Central Asia into the north of Afghanistan.

    Nato has already signed a transit deal with Tajikistan. It says it expects bilateral agreements with Uzbekistan “within days” and Kazakhstan “within weeks”. Pakistan will remain the primary route. But the sleepy Tajik-Afghan border crossing at the village of Nizhny Panj will become a focal point of Obama’s Afghan push.
    “We used to cross the river by boat. Then the Americans built a bridge,” Rasul Nematov, 35, who lives in Nizhny Panj said. … The Pentagon has given Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s attractive capital, $10m to beef up security on its mountainous border, a key conduit for Afghanistan’s biggest export, heroin.
    Back in Nizhny Panj, Tajik border guards in dark blue uniforms cast an expert eye over another Afghan lorry. Tajikistan has agreed to allow up to 250 Nato trucks a day to cross here, a decision that will turn the riverside hamlet into a major hub.

    Guardian: US opens route to Afghanistan through Russia’s backyard


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