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Pakistani Truckers Shun NATO Supplies After Attacks

Hundreds of trucks with NATO supplies have been destroyed in recent attacks.
KARACHI (Reuters) -- Many Pakistani truckers have stopped taking supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan because of an upsurge in militant attacks on goods and equipment trucked through Pakistan, transport company officials have said.

NATO has been looking for alternatives to the main supply route in Pakistan after a surge in attacks by Al-Qaeda-linked militants, including the destruction of about 300 trucks in five attacks last week.

While some trucks were getting through to the border on December 15, a main truckers association said it had stopped sending goods to northwest Pakistan from the country's main port in Karachi.

"We have stopped supplies for NATO forces for security reasons," said Noor Khan Niazi, president of the Karachi Goods Carriers Association.

His members truck most Western military supplies from Karachi port to depots on the outskirts of northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. From there, Peshawar-based truckers take the goods through the Khyber Pass to the border crossing at Torkham.

"They are killing drivers and destroying everything. We have sent nothing for the last eight to 10 days," Niazi said.

About 75 percent of the vehicles, parts, weapons, fuel, water, and food needed to sustain more than 60,000 Western troops in Afghanistan move through the pass and a second overland route to the south between Pakistan's Quetta and Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Western military officials have played down the attacks, saying these have not affected combat operations, but Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has acknowledged growing worry about security on the overland route.

"We're all increasingly concerned. But in that concern, we've worked pretty hard to develop options," the top U.S. military officer told reporters in Washington last week.

'Totally Stopped'

The commander of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, told a news conference in Kabul on December 14 that NATO was in talks with Afghanistan's northern neighbors to allow shipment of more supplies.

McKiernan said most fuel for foreign troops comes from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and the U.S. military confirmed it receives 1.6 million liters of fuel from Afghanistan's northern neighbors.

Some transporters in Peshawar, who are responsible for trucking supplies from depots there to the border, said the attacks had made it impossible for them to maintain supplies.

Ishtiar Afridi, a member of the Khyber Transporters Association, said he and his colleagues moved the majority of food supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan but they had stopped making runs to Torkham.

"We transport 80 percent of supplies, which has now been totally stopped," Afridi said.

But another Peshawar transporter, Kifayatullah Jan, manager of Port World Logistics, said drivers had resumed taking supplies up to the border on December 15 after a Muslim holiday last week.

"We've started sending supplies to Afghanistan from today and are trying to do it as quickly as possible because of the security concerns," Jan said.

Fida Mohammad Bangash, a senior government official in the Khyber region, played down the disruption to supplies, saying 191 trucks went to the border on December 15.