The Taliban have attacked another NATO fuel convoy inside Pakistan; meanwhile, the northern border crossing in Khyber remains closed in protest of a US military cross-border strike from Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters opened fire on a group of fuel tankers yesterday in the town of Mithri in Baluchistan province. Police said 27 fuel tankers were set ablaze. The Taliban attack was unopposed by Pakistani security forces.
The Taliban maintain a strong presence along the border regions in Baluchistan. The Movement of the Taliban in Baluchistan is a shadowy organization of which little is publicly known. The group supports operations against Afghan and Coalition forces, and operates without any restraint from the Pakistani military or government.
Over the past year, the Movement of the Taliban in Baluchistan and allied groups have stepped up attacks against NATO convoys near the Baluchistan cities of Kuzdar, Kalat, Mastung, and Mach, all along the road to Quetta before passing through the Chaman border crossing. Attacks are reported on a near-daily basis.
The torching of the trucks in Mithri is the fifth major attack on NATO’s supply convoys since Pakistan shut down NATO’s supply line through the Khyber Pass on Sept. 30. More than 150 NATO fuel and container trucks have been destroyed in the five attacks.
On Oct. 6, the Taliban took credit for attacks in Quetta and Nowshera, which destroyed 60 trucks. On Oct. 3, three people were killed and 28 tankers burned in the aftermath of a Taliban attack on a convoy near Islamabad. And on Oct. 1, the Taliban torched 36 fuel tankers in an attack outside Shikarpur in Sindh province. The Taliban took credit for each of the attacks, and said the Shikarpur attack was carried out by a group based in Sindh known as the Siyara Group.
The Pakistani government indicated it would announce the reopening of the route in Khyber today, after numerous US officials, including ISAF commander General David Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and Ambassador Anne Patterson apologized for a cross-border incident that led to the death of two Pakistan Frontier Corps troops in Kurram. US troops attacked a Frontier Corps outpost after taking fire while pursuing Haqqani Network fighters across the border.
Some US officials told The Long War Journal that they believed the Pakistani military either facilitated or turned a blind eye to Taliban attacks on NATO’s convoys to punish the US for carrying out cross-border raids. The officials also said the Pakistani military wants to deflect building Western pressure on Pakistan to carry out military operations in the Taliban and al Qaeda havens in North Waziristan. [See LWJ report, Taliban torch 35 more NATO tankers in Pakistan, for more information.]
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