Baitullah Mehsuds lieutenant emerging biggest threat to NATO supply routes

December 25th, 2008 - 2:55 pm ICT by ANI  


New York, Dec 25 (ANI): The attack on NATO supplies provided the latest evidence of how extensively militants now rule the critical region east of the Khyber Pass, the narrow cut through the mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The area encompasses what is officially known as the Khyber Agency, which is adjacent to Peshawar and is one of a handful of lawless tribal districts on the border. But security in Khyber has deteriorated further in recent months with the emergence of a young Taliban commander, The New York Times reported.

Escalating violence on the Khyber road has paralleled the rise of Hakimullah Mehsud, a young Taliban commander and lieutenant of Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the main Pakistani Taliban faction.

Earlier this year, Hakimullah Mehsuds forces took control of Orakzai Agency and instituted the strict Islamic laws known as Shariah. At a news conference there one month ago, Mehsud declared his intention to intensify attacks on NATO supply convoys

Khybers downward spiral is jeopardizing NATOs most important supply line, sending American military officials scrambling to find alternative routes into Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia, the paper added.

Three-quarters of troop supplies enter from Pakistan, most of the goods ferried from Karachi to Peshawar and then 40 miles west through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.

For NATO the most serious problem is not even the depots in Peshawar but the safety of the road that winds west to the 3,500-foot Khyber Pass, the report claims.

The route used to be relatively secure: Afridi tribesmen were paid by the government to safeguard it, and they were subject to severe penalties and collective tribal punishment for crimes against travelers.

But now the road is a death trap, truckers and some security officials say, with routine attacks like one on Sunday that burned a fuel tanker and another last Friday that killed three drivers returning from Afghanistan. (ANI)

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