The Taliban destroyed 35 more NATO fuel tankers destined for Afghanistan during an attack in Pakistan’s northwest. The attack was the second today, and the fourth major attack since Pakistan shut down NATO’s supply line through the Khyber Pass one week ago.
The timing and the spike in attacks have some US officials suspecting that the Pakistani military is aiding the attacks to pressure the US and NATO. Pakistan wants the US to end its insistence that the Pakistani military take on the Taliban and al Qaeda in North Waziristan, and to stop hot pursuit attacks against Taliban and Haqqani Network fighters fleeing Afghanistan, the officials said.
The second attack today took place in Khairabad near Nowshera on the Grand Trunk Road, the major east-west highway that passes through Peshawar and the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. Taliban fighters in pickup trucks launched an RPG attack on the fuel tankers as they were parked at a rest stop, setting 35 tankers ablaze.
An earlier attack today outside Quetta destroyed 25 NATO fuel trucks. Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq claimed the Quetta attack and said that NATO convoys would be hit in retaliation for the US’ escalated Predator air campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The Taliban have also taken credit for two other recent attacks that destroyed 64 fuel trucks and containers. 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 said the Shikarpur attack was carried out by a group based in Sindh known as the Siyara Group.
In other recent incidents, a handful of tankers have been damaged in smaller attacks in Khyber and Baluchistan. One failed attack, a bomb placed on a fuel tanker parked with more than 100 tankers in Khyber, had the potential to destroy scores of tankers.
The police and the military did not engage the Taliban in any of the four major attacks.
US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said that it was no coincidence that the major attacks against NATO supplies began immediately after the Khyber Pass was closed to NATO traffic. Pakistan closed the vital crossing point in response to US military cross-border helicopter strikes that have occurred in pursuit of Haqqani Network fighters fleeing from Afghanistan into safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal agencies of North Waziristan and Kurram. The Khyber Pass is NATO’s main conduit for supplies into Afghanistan; more than 70 percent of the supplies move through this strategic crossing point.
“Massive attacks against our supplies such as we’ve seen over the past several days have been rare inside Pakistan, yet the KP [the Khyber Pass] is closed, and all of the sudden the Taliban is roaming wild, destroying convoys at will?” one intelligence official said. “Look at the location of these attacks: they are well out outside Taliban heartlands in the northwest or along the border in Baluchistan. Where is the security? Either the Pakistani military is turning a blind eye to the attacks, or it is directing them, and neither prospect is good.”
Over the past few months, US defense and intelligence officials have grown more vocal about Pakistan’s support of terror groups in Afghanistan. And now, US officials and even Taliban commanders are accusing Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate of spurring the Taliban to step up their attacks on Afghan civilians and NATO forces, The Wall Street Journal reported today. The Pakistani military and the ISI have long provided covert support for the Afghan Taliban [see LWJ report, Pakistan’s Jihad].
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