Pakistani lorry drivers supplying Nato troops in Afghanistan go on strike

Pakistani Taleban fighters (pictured) have vowed to step up attacks on supply convoys in the Khyber Pass (Tariq/AFP/Getty Images)

An association of Pakistani lorry owners and drivers refused today to resume delivering supplies to foreign troops in Afghanistan after a series of militant attacks on convoys plying the main supply route via the Khyber Pass.

An international shipping company that handles US military supplies through Pakistan also said that there was now “a large backlog of military freight” across the country from Karachi, where the cargo arrives by ship, to the Afghan border, “Clearly the security situation is very difficult,” Kevin Speers, a spokesman for Maersk Lines Ltd, told The Times. “Movement through the Pass has been severely restricted.”

Pakistani authorities closed the Khyber Pass route nine days ago after militants carried out their biggest attack yet on the supply line, torching around 260 vehicles on two consecutive nights in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

There were another three smaller attacks in Peshawar last week.

Pakistan’s Government re-opened the route today, hoping to restore a lifeline that accounts for about 70 per cent of all supplies to the 67,000 Nato, US and other foreign troops in Afghanistan.

But the Khyber Transport Association, which claims to represent the owners of 3,500 trucks, tankers and other vehicles, said that its members would no longer ply the route because of the recent security problems.

“They’re on strike,” said a representative of one large Pakistani haulage company that handles supplies to foreign troops in Afghanistan.

“It’s because of the security situation,” he told The Times. “No trucks crossed the border today, but we hope to move about 30-40 across tomorrow.”

He said that the association represented about 60 per cent of the lorry owner-drivers who work on the route from Peshawar, via the Khyber Pass and the border town of Torkham to Kabul, the Afghan capital.

The strike came as US President George Bush made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, warning of a “long struggle” ahead amid plans to deploy another 20,000 American troops to the country.

Nato and US officials admit that they are concerned about the recent attacks but insist they are insignificant in strategic terms, and have had no effect on military operations in Afghanistan.

December 15, 2008

Source: Times Online

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