NATO tankers torched in Pakistan, but alternative routes to Afghanistan limited
The incident encapsulates many of the challenges for NATO tankers and supply lines, including militant attacks, disastrous floods, and mercurial Pakistan-US relations.
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Supply routes limited
In the bigger picture, says Ijaz Khattak, a professor of international relations at Peshawar University, Pakistan is also not supportive of the US surge in Afghanistan. That's because if it were to work it could put Islamabad in a less central position during peace negotiations.Skip to next paragraph
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"You see on the one side an increase in American pressure, and in Pakistan an increase in different tactics to make it difficult for the US to carry on with its so-called surge policy Afghanistan," says Professor Khattak.
Some 80 percent of the fuel and other nonlethal supplies for the war effort travel through Pakistan, according to the Associated Press. In recent years, the coalition has added redundancy to its supply lines by opening several supply routes through the Central Asian republics as well.
Those new routes are more expensive, but the various squeezes within Pakistan are no doubt raising costs there as well.
Attackers drove Land Cruisers
The torched tankers had been parked for the night at a gas station, says local district coordination officer Saeed Ahmed Mangnejo. No one was hurt in the attack, he says, and he declined to speculate on who was responsible.
"It is a bit early to say, an investigation is under way," he says. "No militants are operating in this area. This is a peaceful area."
Rehmatullah Soomro, a reporter for the newspaper Dawn who interviewed some of the drivers, says they told him they were headed to Kandahar. The attack took place at about 1:30 a.m. Mr. Soomro says few witnessed the attack but some say the attackers came in Toyota Land Cruisers and used rocket launchers.
Trucks ferrying NATO supplies through Shikarpur are all headed toward Kandahar; trucks headed to Kabul through the Khyber Pass go a different route, says Mr. Mangnejo. But, he says, trucks had not been seen around town for weeks until two days ago when a road connecting Shikarpur was fixed.
While the floods caused rerouting of trucks heading to Kandahar, the trucks heading to Kabul seem less disrupted.
Interviews with Pakistani truckers in Kabul last week indicated that the floods did not force any major rerouting of lorries heading through Pakistan's northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunwa. Drivers showed cellphone videos of widespread damage to their villages, but they said the road network for trucks remained intact.
Issam Ahmed contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.