PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Container trucks and oil tankers bound for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan opened today after suspending deliveries Sunday after militant attacks prompted Pakistan to block a major supply line.
The ban in northwest Pakistan was intended to allow for a review of security in the famed Khyber Pass. The convoys currently have little to no security detail as they travel to Afghanistan with vital food, fuel and other goods.
The suspension was lifted today with new procedures in place, said Bakhtiar Khan, a No. 2 government representative in the area. A convoy of about 30 vehicles began moving today under armed escort after militant attacks prompted their suspension from the critical supply route.
Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters are behind much of the escalating violence along the lengthy, porous Afghan-Pakistan border. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have accused each other of not doing enough to stop militant activity, while U.S. missile strikes in Pakistani territory have ratcheted up tensions further.
Last Monday, dozens of suspected Taliban militants hijacked several trucks near the Khyber Pass whose load included Humvees heading to the U.S.-led coalition.
Over the weekend, U.S.-led coalition troops reported killing 38 insurgents in fighting in southern Afghanistan and detaining two militant leaders near Pakistan’s lawless border.
U.S. and NATO officials in Afghanistan have sought to downplay threats posed to the convoys coming through Pakistan, but NATO has said it is close to striking pacts with Central Asian countries that would let it transport “nonlethal” supplies from north of Afghanistan.
A Pakistani official on Sunday said authorities planned to offer paramilitary Frontier Corps escorts to trucks carrying supplies for troops in Afghanistan.
Afghan president reaches out to Taliban
As international pressure mounts for negotiations with insurgents, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that he would guarantee the security of Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar if he decides to enter into talks.
Striking a defiant tone, Karzai said he would not bow to demands from the international community to turn Omar over to U.S. authorities if the Taliban leader agreed to negotiate a peace settlement with Karzai’s government. “As for Mullah Omar and his associates, if I hear from him that he is willing to come to Afghanistan or to negotiate for peace and for liberty so that our children will not be killed anymore, I as the president of Afghanistan will go to any length to provide him security,” Karzai said.
“If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices: remove me or leave,” he added.
A fierce military commander who was wounded several times in battle, Omar ruled the country until the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.
Intelligence experts believe Omar now leads his fighters from a safe haven near the southern Pakistani city of Quetta. The U.S. has offered a multimillion-dollar reward for Omar’s capture.