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First NATO Supply Trucks Cross Into Afghanistan From Pakistan

  • RFE/RL

Trucks from Pakistan approach the Khyber Pass checkpoint on July 4 in anticipation of crossing the border into Afghanistan.

Trucks from Pakistan approach the Khyber Pass checkpoint on July 4 in anticipation of crossing the border into Afghanistan.

The first trucks carrying NATO supplies have entered Afghanistan from Pakistan following a resumption of operations after a seven-month blockade.

A Radio Mashaal correspondent at one of the area's busiest border crossings, Chaman, confirmed the passage of the first trucks along that route early on July 5, less than two days after Islamabad announced the move.

Pakistan agreed to reopen the supply line after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered "sincere condolences" to Pakistan over air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

Islamabad had closed the routes in response to the botched strikes and publicly made their reopening conditional on a U.S. apology.

The blockade had forced NATO to rely on longer, more expensive northern routes to Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia. According to the Pentagon, the Pakistani transit ban was costing the U.S. military about $100 million a month.

It also left thousands of trucks and tankers stuck in the Arabian Sea port of Karachi.

A convoy of trucks waits in the Khyber Pass area of the Pakistani-Afghan border on July 4 for word that the crossings are open again.

A convoy of trucks waits in the Khyber Pass area of the Pakistani-Afghan border on July 4 for word that the crossings are open again.


The Pakistani government does not levy transit fees on the shipments, which include fuel and other vital supplies for U.S. and international efforts in the ongoing effort to rout Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the region.

Repairing Relations?

Relations between the uneasy allies in international counterterrorism efforts worsened considerably after a U.S. raid from Afghanistan to kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at a Pakistani compound in Abbotabad in May 2011.

NATO has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for allowing militants based on its territory to launch attacks into Afghanistan.

Pakistan, in turn, accuses the United States of violating its sovereignty with frequent strikes by drone aircraft on militants in its northwestern Pashtun tribal areas.

As part of the reopening deal, Washington will give Pakistan's military more than $1 billion to reimburse the cost of counterinsurgency operations.

The land routes into Afghanistan are vital as the United States and its NATO allies withdraw troops and equipment built up in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

Pakistani officials, however, said the bulk of trucks would have to wait several days before crossing into Afghanistan as authorities work out measures to protect them from attack by Taliban militants.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, said on July 3 that ties between the two countries were poised to improve.

Threat From Militants

The U.S. commander of NATO troops fighting the Taliban and remnants of Al-Qaeda, General John Allen, this week welcomed Pakistan's decision to reopen the supply lines.

The Pakistani Taliban on July 3 threatened to attack NATO supply trucks and kill drivers who resume supplies to troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP that its militants "will not allow any truck to pass and will attack it."

Militants previously carried out frequent attacks on the slow-moving trucks as hauliers wound through mountainous or otherwise difficult terrain to reach their Afghan destinations.

A rocket attack struck this fuel tanker carrying NATO supplies in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar in November 2009.

A rocket attack struck this fuel tanker carrying NATO supplies in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar in November 2009.


Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, Reuters, and AP

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