Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taliban Hijacking Threatens Key NATO Supply Route

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taliban Hijacking Threatens Key NATO Supply Route

Article excerpt

Pakistani Taliban militants hijacked a convoy carrying wheat and military vehicles headed for Afghanistan Monday, underscoring for NATO forces the vulnerability of their only practical supply route into landlocked Afghanistan.

In a brazen attack in Jamrud, near the capital of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, 60 masked militants held up a convoy of 13 trucks, according to official reports. The trucks, 12 of which were carrying wheat and one carrying two Humvees for Western forces in Afghanistan, were hijacked without the militants having to fire a single shot.

The highway on which the incident took place connects Peshawar, the largest city in northwestern Pakistan, to Jalalabad and Kabul in Afghanistan. Coalition forces receive their food and weapons from the nearest warm-water port in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, over 1,000 miles away, through this route.

"This is the most traditional, most used land route to connect Afghanistan and Pakistan," says Talat Masood, a security expert and retired general of the Pakistani Army. The same supply route was used to support the mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet Union, he says.

At least two other routes connect the two countries. One in the south connects Quetta to the Afghan city of Kandahar, but it makes little sense for supplying NATO forces in and around Kabul, the capital. This route would be an extra few hundred miles, and it passes through even less secure territory. Another route, which passes through the Pakistani town of Parachinar, is ill-suited to large trucks and convoys.

The hijacking was claimed by fighters for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, who posed for photographs with black-and-white banners of the umbrella Taliban organization draped over the Humvees.

According to local press reports, a military operation followed the hijackings involving gunship helicopters. But local residents said Tuesday evening that most of the wheat and the hijacked trucks had been sold off in markets and that one abandoned Humvee had been recovered.

Though hijackings along this route are not unheard of, "it might just be the most flagrant hijacking of a supply convoy yet," says Mr. …

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