The Daily Telegraph’s Isambard Wilkinson reports that the main trade association for Pakistani trucking companies that haul NATO goods into Afghanistan from Karachi has now decided to halt all NATO trucking until the security of the trucks and their drivers can be assured.
(HT: Afghanistan Conflict Monitor, again. Great resource!)
Wilkinson quotes Khyber Transport Association head M.S. Afridi as saying, ” “We have stopped supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan from today. We have around 3,500 trucks, tankers and other vehicles, we are the major suppliers to Afghanistan, transporting about 60-70 per cent of goods.”
- the main weak point, according to the Tariq Hayat Khan, the political agent for the Khyber tribal area, is on the outskirts of Peshawar city, which falls outside his jurisdiction and where the truck depots stand.
The hauliers are asking the government to shift the depots away from Peshawar’s ring-road, to a less vulnerable place.
3,500 trucks is, I believe around five days’ worth of supplies for the NATO force in Afghanistan? Anyway, it looks like a stoppage that will have a significant impact for many ISAF troops in Afghanistan.
Afridi’s statement comes a week after a big attack in the Peshawar area left 160 Afghanistan-bound trucks as charred remains. But evidently there have been other attacks, too, since Wilkinson writes that “Hundreds of Nato and US-led coalition vehicles have been destroyed in the last two weeks after depots were targeted by hundreds of militants in northwest Pakistan.”
He adds this:
- Qudratullah Khan, a transporter from Khyber Agency who runs Al Qadri Cargo Company, said: “Transportation of goods to Afghanistan has become a risky job and even our lives at stake while taking the goods.
“The vehicles carrying containers for Afghanistan are being looted in a broad day light, the drivers are killed and kidnapped, but we do not see any security or protection to us.”
He added that there suspicions that drivers were involved in looting vehicles and convoys in collusion with the militants.
…Mr Khan said the Taliban is taking 30 per cent of the goods as for the Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud’s “Islamic treasury”, and 30 per cent are shared by the drivers and transporters when these vehicles are looted or kidnapped.
So there’s a major problem of trusting the drivers. (And maybe, also, of trusting some of the army and security force units sent in to help guard the convoys?)
This certainly does not look like a problem that will be solved satisfactorily any time soon.
All of which increases the urgency with which NATO needs to conclude the negotiations it’s now holding with Russia about opening a major trans-shipment route into Afghanistan via the Russian railroads. Even more so, since NATO is planning to beef up its presence in Afghanistan, which means it will require an even thicker pipeline of shipments into the country.
Over the past few months Russia has lost a considerable amount of that portion of “leverage” it had with western nations by virtue of its status as oil exporter (though the leverage it derives from its gas exports has not declined as much.) But now, thanks to the deterioration of the security situation in Pakistan, Russia is acquiring considerable new leverage with the west by virtue of its rail network.
Stay tuned for developments in all aspects of this story. The situation in Pakistan does not look stable.