PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Container trucks and oil tankers bound for U.S and NATO troops in Afghanistan have suspended deliveries after militant attacks prompted Pakistan to block a major supply line, highlighting the vulnerability of the mountain passage.
The ban in northwest Pakistan, confirmed on Sunday, was intended to allow for a review of security in the famed Khyber Pass. The convoys currently have little to no security detail as they travel to Afghanistan with vital food, fuel and other goods.
The suspension could be lifted as early as today with new procedures in place, said Bakhtiar Khan, a government representative.
The U.S. military reported Sunday that 38 insurgents were killed during a clash with coalition troops in southern Helmand province.
Also Saturday, in eastern Paktia province’s Zurmat district, coalition troops killed five al-Qaida-associated insurgents and nabbed eight, including a militant leader accused of helping the Taliban move and train Arab and other foreign fighters into Afghanistan, a statement said.
In eastern Khost province Saturday, coalition and Afghan troops detained a militant leader of the network of Afghan insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani. The U.S. once supported Jalaluddin Haqqani as a “freedom fighter” when he fought against the former Soviet Union’s 1980s occupation of Afghanistan. He and his son Sirajuddin are now considered major threats to U.S. forces.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, offered Sunday to provide security for the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Omar, if he agrees to enter peace talks, and suggested that if the U.S. and other Western nations disagreed they could leave the country or oust him.
“If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices, remove me or leave if they disagree,” Karzai said.
Omar is believed to be in hiding but still running the insurgency.
Karzai has long supported drawing the Islamist militia into the political mainstream on the condition that they accept the country’s constitution.
Omar has not directly responded to these calls, but spokesmen associated with the Taliban have previously said U.S. and other foreign troops must withdraw before any talks. Karzai dismissed that, saying foreign troops are necessary for Afghanistan’s security.
Also Sunday, suicide car bombers struck a NATO convoy in the northern Baghlan province and a U.S. convoy in western Herat province, officials said. One civilian died in the northern attack.
The British military said one of its soldiers was killed when his vehicle was hit by an explosion in the southern Helmand Province on Saturday. NATO reported one of its soldiers was killed in a roadside bombing, but it was unclear if the two attacks were related.