Taliban Vow More Attacks On NATO Supplies
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Pakistan's Taliban have claimed responsibility for several attacks since Friday on NATO supply convoys heading for Afghanistan. The latest attacks came today.
The attacks have destroyed scores of fuel tankers and killed several truck drivers, and they have also highlighted the vulnerability of U.S. and NATO supply lines, as well as resentment over NATO helicopter raids into Pakistan. We're going to talk about this with NPR's Anthony Kuhn. He's in Islamabad.
How did these attacks happen, Anthony?
ANTHONY KUHN: Well, the attack this morning, Steve, was very similar to what we saw last week in Sindh province - southern Sindh province. A convoy of fuel tankers was lined up at a terminal outside the capital of Islamabad early this morning. Gunmen attacked it, killed several truck drivers and then set ablaze the whole convoy.
Police tell us that they have arrested six people. Interestingly, all of them were actually with the convoy - drivers or police. This has raised some eyebrows, but police say they're investigating.
INSKEEP: Anthony, who's guarding these convoys across Pakistan, and have they been attacked in this way before?
KUHN: Yes, they have. And the message from the Taliban this morning was somewhat informative. A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban group said that this was carried out by a wing of the Taliban called the Siara Group, which is in charge of attacking convoys and government installations.
The Taliban spokesman said that the attacks last week in Sindh were carried out by local militants who went up to the tribal areas in South Waziristan to train, and then went back to Sindh to carry out the attacks.
Last week, after the attacks, several students at a local madrasa were arrested. We don't know if those were connected. But anyways, the Taliban say they will continue attacking NATO convoys until NATO stops using Pakistan to resupply the war effort in Afghanistan.
INSKEEP: I assume these convoys are guarded by Pakistan's military, at least in theory?
KUHN: Really not. And this is a key issue. The government has closed down one of the key border crossings, the Torkham border crossing that this convoy was headed for. And it says it will not reopen that border crossing until security improves and public anger subsides over cross-border raids by NATO helicopters.
Now, anger - public anger is not likely to subside anytime soon, especially if the NATO attacks continue. But as for the issue of security, some analysts say that, in fact, these Taliban attacks are sending a message to NATO, also. And for that reason, the government is doing very little either to protect the convoys or to go after the perpetrators.
INSKEEP: So you have a situation where NATO convoys on Pakistani soil are under attack, and it appears that Pakistani security forces are not feeling very motivated to protect them. How badly is all this disrupting supplies to U.S. troops and other NATO troops in Afghanistan?
KUHN: Well, first of all, the Pakistani government made clear over the weekend that the closure of the border is a temporary matter, and it will reopen perhaps within the week.
However, in the long term, first of all, there's another border crossing which remains open further south at Chaman. And also, of course, Pakistan is only the route for the non-lethal supplies. Eighty percent of the logistical supplies go through Pakistan. That's a big amount, but they have other routes.
And the U.S. and NATO says that logistic supplies have not been seriously disrupted. But clearly, the potential is there for the opening of another front, another serious problem in this conflict.
INSKEEP: NPR's Anthony Kuhn is in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Thanks very much.
KUHN: Thank you, Steve.
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