Taliban torch 35 more NATO tankers in Pakistan

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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].

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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  • gfgwgc says:

    By issuing an apology to Pakistan, the Obama administration blinked first. This was a mistake on our part – an apology in that part of the world conveys weakness and self-doubt. We exhibited ambiguity of purpose at a time when we should be tightening the screws.

  • Setrak says:

    Note the most recent attacks in Balochistan’s NE came after Pakistan decided to prevent over 100 tankers from crossing at Chaman due to “paperwork” that did not meet their “standards”.
    The WSJ report follows other reports of US/Afghan/Taliban/Haqqani talks. Will Pakistan again start purging militant leaders who aren’t doing what they’re being told? A more important question; will Pakistan ever realize that they cannot control extremism?

  • Jimmy says:

    You couldn’t be more right! I had commented a few days back (when the first NATO tankers were torched) that if the US appeases Pakistan NOW, this war will surely drag on for the next 10 years without victory for the US.
    lets get one thing straight….forget Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan…
    I have been saying this since the first time I commented on this blog that Pakistan is the real enemy(and thank you Bill Roggio for displaying all my comments :)). The world has to unite if it has to crush this Jihadi monster. US, Canada, Europe, Russia, Israel, S.E Asia (Vietnam, Japan, S.Korea), Australia, and India have to UNITEDLY fight this modern day Nazi state (China and the Middle East cannot be trusted). Choke its cash inflow, cut off its weapons systems, cripple its electronic infrastructure, wedge open its ethnic fissures, and finally, disband the murderous Pak Army and ISI and force down a pacifist constitution…that is what will keep this monster underground for the next 1000 years.

  • Armchair Warlord says:

    The Obama administration “blinked first”? Please – those of us in the government are not in the business of issuing spurious statements. If a couple of Pakistani soldiers were in fact killed (and by all indications they were) then the Pakistanis deserve an apology as a matter of course.
    And if the Pakistanis continue to play games at Torkham then maybe we should overthrow their government and finish this war. One gets the feeling the Obama Administration is getting fed up and the Pakistanis are in the process of handing us a cassus belli on a plate.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    “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.”
    In short the Pakistanis are saying: Don’t kill Al Qaeda or the Taliban. They are our friends.

  • Charley says:

    From Pentagon’s spokesman Geoff Morrell’s press conference of 10/5:
    “And I would point out, Anne, that it is in the Pakistanis’ interest to do this. I mean, this is a huge commercial enterprise for them, and they do not get paid until that fuel is delivered to the point of destination in Afghanistan. So they have incentive to protect the convoys, to make sure that the situation is such that they can get to their destination safely.”
    Hmm…then should we care if they blow up some more? Elsewhere he says the ones blown up are only 1% of the total supplies getting through. Something does not compute.

  • pterseus says:

    What is sickening is we are cancelling missile programs to save money over here while we give billions to Pakistan in order to bleed us to death slowly over there.
    Wouldn’t the billions of dollars we give to Pakistan be better spent on a fleet of carriers filled with drones? Better yet, couldn’t we threaten to give half of their defense appropriation to India?
    The rest of the fuel could be smuggled in from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan or Turkmenistan (I’m sure we could create carrots enough for that). Besides, they have a growing Islamist problem there. They might like our help in return for logistics aid.
    I’m ready to tell Pakistan to rot.

  • joey says:

    War with Pakistan is now inevitable
    And to think that they were “allies” in this fight.

  • Mike says:

    It is past time for cumpolsory military service in the United States. We do not have the army to fight a total war against this enemy. Can we rely on the Indians to bear the brunt of the coming war? Can Pakistani nuclear sites be safely secured rapidly enough once the bombing begins? Who am I kidding, Obama, nor any American president, will be willing to take the necessary steps until AFTER the mushroom clouds.

  • David says:

    If the Pakistanis intend to pressure us with this tactic,
    a good response might be to sell India a large, technologically signficant weapons package, and/or
    exchange defense secretary visits with them. It seems
    to me that, with India always available, we should hold
    the whip hand in any negotiations. Does anyone know
    a reason why this wouldn’t work? Has it been tried before?

  • Raven says:

    Involving India has it’s own dynamics. They will have their own objectives to get involved. But trashing Pakistan would be a great incentive for all the past griefs. However, are we ready to go there? Further, Taliban is Pak Army’s proxy and Pak Army will be China’s proxy if India gets involved. Pakistan may not get paid as much as we pay them, but still China can still bankroll them. This is getting more complicated and our strategist know this and want to appease Pakistan as much as possible, else be prepared to deal when we open another can of worms.

  • JRP says:

    I agree with Mike and David. I’ve advocated resumption of the Draft now for quite some time and it is high time we began to show Pakistan that 2 can play this “But they are our friends” game. Also, President Obama is a highly political person. He and his counselors have to know that failure to affirmatively protect U.S. property being intentionally destroyed in a foreign country is not going to be ignored forever by the U.S. electorate or the Republican Party. Finally, all that’s now going on can be directly attributed to the arbitrary setting of timelines for withdrawal. The only non-military play that we can make with Pakistan that might get Pakistan back as an ally is a genuine reversal of course on this timeline business so as to let not just Pakistan, but Karzai too, know that we are in the war for the duration and for the purpose of winning with “winning” meaning the capture or elimination of all HVT AQ personnel and the suppression of the Taliban’s extra-territorial activities. What the Taliban does within Afghanistan should not be our concern. I do not see the sacrifice of American lives for the sake of getting Afghan women the right to vote etc. as being a proper U.S. objective. If the Peace Corps wants that task and is willing to risk it, fine. However, it is not America’s job to spread democracy around the World. Democracy is suited for Europe, the Americas, Australia/NZ, and Japan, not necessarily most of Asia and most of Africa. No racism or anti-feminism here to be implied.

  • AMac says:

    From the LWJ post:

    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.”

    In the 10/7/10 Wall St. Journal article “U.S. Apologizes for Killing of Guards,” page A14, reporter Tom Wright wrote (fair use, emphasis added):

    Since [the Sept. 30 shooting], suspected Islamist militants have launched attacks on trucks loaded with NATO supplies that have been idled due to the closing of the Torkham crossing into Afghanistan.
    Pakistani officials have said it isn’t their job to guard the trucks, which are owned by private Pakistani contractors.

  • Raven says:

    Just when we thought Pakistan Army standing up to us… Two serving Army Majors too? Wonder if these two were also involved in Mumbai-style attacks on Europe.
    26/11: Pak army majors in the dock, Interpol issues Red Corner Notice
    October 07, 2010 9:32:46 PM
    PTI | New Delhi
    International arrest warrants were issued by the Interpol against five Pakistani nationals including two serving Army Majors for their alleged role in Mumbai terror attack and plotting to carry out more strikes in this country.
    The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the role of Pakistani-American LeT operative David Headley in India, had approached the court of Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi which issued a non-bailable warrant against the five Pakistanis.
    The Interpol Red Corner Notice were issued against Illyas Kashmiri, Major Sameer Ali, Major Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Hashim alias “Pasha” and Sajid Majid alias Sajid Mir, a NIA official said today. The action followed a request from India.
    India had already secured a Red Corner Notice against founder of terrorist outfit Lashker-e-Taiba(LeT) Hafeez Saeed, his close aide Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Mohammed Ramadhan Mohammed Siddiqui alias Abu Hamza.
    The court issued the non-bailable warrant against the five after the NIA submitted interrogation report of Headley conducted by its official during the visit of its team to Chicago in June this year.

  • Matt Musson says:

    That’s what the British used in WWI on the German U-boats. We should send through some empty tankers as a trap.
    These tankers have been easy pickings because no one wants to defend an explosively flammable vehicle.

  • Bill Baar says:

    The Pakhtunkhwa Peace Forum on facebook lite up with videos of the Pak Army executing Pashtuns, and supposedly the video was made public by the US Army. Could these tanker attacks be retaliation for that?

  • davidp says:

    Charley, As I said on yesterday’s thread, this article //publicintelligence.net/nato-contractors-attack-their-own-vehicles-in-pakistan/
    says “If an old vehicle is burnt, Nato gives them money for a new vehicle. In addition, they receive compensation for all the fuel lost as well.”

  • ramgun says:

    @David and others:
    Back in 2001, I was disappointed India wasnt part of this war; trying to fulfil its own objectives in Pakistan held Kashmir and indeed deeper in Pakistan.
    But now with the benefit of hindsight, I am happy we didnt enter / get to enter. Without a single Rupee or a single loss of life, we are getting to see NATO (and even a reluctant Pak army) do our work for us. Would be even better if there is a showdown between NATO and Pak army itself – our work will get completely done!
    The results are apparent – less infiltration in Kashmir. And less support for Pak noises about Kashmir and the river disputes. Pak is busy with its own problems

  • Charley says:

    Thanks, davidp. That is a loophole a Mack tanker can go through. Some genius contracting language our guys in procurement allow! I wonder what the Pentagon spokesman has to say this.
    I repeat my yesterday’s recommendation to have Obama ask India during his Nov 5 visit to create an air bridge from forward air bases in India to Afghanistan, and compensate the additional cost by procuring gasoline locally from Jamnagar’s oil refinery (world’s largest), instead of being shipped from Diego Garcia or elsewhere, and food supplies from US MNCs and local firms in India. The Pakistan air force dare not shoot down our C130’s.

  • David says:

    @ramgun —
    What I was suggesting was a little more theatre than actual Indian involvement in the war. If we simply sell India some fancy hardware, that is sure to get the Pak military very upset. India wouldn’t have to risk one life, or fire one bullet. Admittedly, they would have to spend some rupees, but they would be getting some nice hardware in return.
    @Matt Musson — I remember the QShips that you are referring to. I think that the problem would be that we aren’t allowed to put troops on their territory at all.


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