Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"NATO Explores Alternatives to Khyber Pass, No Good Options,", December 9, 2008.

[It may seem in the general blur of events that a Taliban raid has destroyed or hijacked 20 or 50 or 100 or 150 NATO vehicles depending on who you talk to. But why not all of the above. Hard to tell. But NATO says not to worry. Or was that the Pentagon. O well.

What is clear is that this story is not a disagreement about the number of trucks involved in a single episode.

On November 11, approximately 60 Taliban hijacked a convoy including some humvees which they commenced to drive around. Then on December 3, Long War Journal reported that NATO convoys had been hit for thee days in a row.

A raid in Peshawar on Sunday, December 7 by approximately 300 fighters destroyed more than 160 trucks and military vehicles. (Voice of America

A second raid in Peashawar on December 8 "set nearly 100 vehicles alight including jeeps and 20 supply trucks." (AFP Dec 9 08)

A third attack on a container depot, also apparently on Sunday but not reported till later, destroyed another 150 trucks.

However many the trucks or raids, they are said to have an "insignificant" impact on US and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said, "The overall impact on our logistical efforts to resupply US forces, NATO forces, ISAF forces as well as Afghan forces has been small and has had an overall insignificant impact to date."

US spokesperson Colonel Greg Julian told AFP, "We have multiple avenues of supply lines to ensure the troops have what they need."

That appears to refer to Chaman, a crossing further south in the relatively nationalistic Baloch region. Does NATO have a deal? Someone should ask the British about 1842.

Peshawar has an encompassing emotional significance because it is a large Pashtun city on the Pakistani side of the Durand line. in a separate incident, a car bomb killed 34 and injured some 165 people in a shopping area crowded with people buying for the Eid holiday. (al Jazeera Dec 6 08) A number of militant groups are now operating within urban centers in Pakistan, including Peshawar and Karachi.

As Myra Macdonald says, "the battle for Peshawar is one we all should watch." -jlt]

After a series of major attacks on vehicles in Peshawar supply depots meant for international forces in Afghanistan, The Pakistani government’s seriousness about protecting the vital Khyber Pass route to Afghanistan, through which 75% of all supplies for the Afghanistan war effort pass, are in growing doubt. Yesterday’s attack, the third in just over 24 hours, hit a poorly guarded supply depot, and managed to destroy 150 vehicles without any of the watchmen on the scene seeing anything.

The danger on the route is leading NATO to explore other alternatives for supplying its forces in Afghanistan. Unfortunately for them, the dangerous and remote Khyber Pass has been an historically important trade and supply route for a reason, and few practical alternatives exist. One proposal would ship the supplies into Georgia, transport them by rail to Azerbaijan, across the Caspian Sea by boat, and then across Turkmenistan by road.

Russia provides another alternative route, and has already agreed to allow Spain and Germany to use their territory for supplies. But a land route across Europe and through Russia is long, inconvenient, and gives Russia another bargaining chip as relations with the alliance worsen. Given the growing need to import supplies as the United States and other NATO partners increase their commitments to the already seven year long war, the Khyber route seems unlikely to see a decline in use, no matter how many trucks are destroyed in the process.

The original version of this story contains a number of useful links =>
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