domingo, 31 de agosto de 2008

Taliban ambushes threaten NATO vital logistics route into Afghanistan

By Nick Meo in Peshawar, Pakistan
Last Updated: 1:26AM BST 31 Aug 2008

Using age-old guerrilla tactics, they hijack or destroy the ponderous lorries creeping up the narrow road and sell the contents in local bazaars to finance new raids.

A prominent, independent tribesman from the Khyber region, who cannot be named for his own safety, told The Sunday Telegraph that the Pakistani army was close to losing control of the pass.

“You see vehicles destroyed by rockets on the side of the road,” he said. “The wreckage isn’t there for long, the army soon removes it to make it look as if they are still in control of the road. But they are on the verge of losing it.”

The number of attacks on supply convoys is a military secret, but the tribesman claimed they were occurring almost daily. Earlier this year 42 oil tankers were destroyed in one attack.


About 70 per cent of the fuel, clothes and food needed by Nato’s mission is transported in civilian Pakistani trucks through the Khyber Pass, a vulnerable point in a long route to Kabul which begins in the Pakistani port of Karachi.

The route is too risky to transport weapons and munitions, and most British supplies travel on the southern route from Quetta to Helmand.

There were hopes that Russia would ease Nato’s difficulties by granting access through its territory later this year, but that is now in doubt after the war in Georgia.

“If Nato lost control of the pass, there is no doubt that other routes would be found,” said Matthew Clements, the Eurasia analyst for Jane’s Country Risk. “But they are more difficult and expensive. It would interfere with the smooth running of the operation.”


The lorries’ cargoes are then sold in Peshawar’s thieves’ bazaars, where looted US Army and Marines Corps uniforms and equipment are openly displayed for sale.

Before being shooed away by an angry stallholder, The Sunday Telegraph saw a uniform with the surname “Franklin” emblazoned on the right breast and a book called “On Killing” with a photo of a soldier in Iraq on the cover.

Maps, entrenching tools, US military rations packs and even US medals turn up in stalls set up in a labyrinthine warren where the road heads out of Peshawar city and into a tribal area. US Army helmets are popular with motorcyclists and cricketers.


The Taliban’s tactics are similar to those used by Mujahideen guerrillas in the 1980s who crippled the Soviet Army by attacking supply convoys.


The Pakistan Army meanwhile is suffering from low morale and high desertion rates, especially because after years of being indoctrinated to fight Hindu Indian soldiers they are now being sent against fellow Muslims in a bloody war that looks unwinnable to many Pakistanis.

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