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MassCops Angel
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Sun Nov 16, 7:04 AM ET

A Pakistani driver sits beside parked trucks loaded with supplies for American and NATO forces, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008 in Peshawar, Pakistan. Pakistan has temporarily suspended oil tankers and trucks carrying sealed containers from using a key passage to Afghanistan, an official said Sunday, a move that will likely impact supplies heading to U.S. and NATO troops.(AP Photo/Muhammad Iqbal)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Pakistan temporarily barred oil tankers and container trucks from a key passageway to Afghanistan, threatening a critical supply route for U.S. and NATO troops on Sunday and raising more fears about security in the militant-plagued border region.
The suspension came as U.S.-led coalition troops reported killing 30 insurgents in fighting in southern Afghanistan and detaining two militant leaders - both in provinces near Pakistan's lawless border.
Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters are behind much of the escalating violence along the lengthy, porous Afghan-Pakistan border, and both nations have traded accusations that the other was not doing enough to keep militants out from its side.
The tensions come as violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest level since the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime in 2001, and as a surge in U.S. missile strikes on the Pakistani side of the border has prompted protests from Pakistan government leaders.
Last Monday, a band of militants hijacked around a dozen trucks whose load included Humvees headed to the foreign forces in Afghanistan. Renewed security concerns prompted officials to impose the temporary ban on tankers and trucks carrying sealed containers late Saturday, government official Bakhtiar Khan said. He said it could be lifted as early as Monday.
Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, acknowledged only that "the appropriate authorities are coordinating security procedures."
"The convoys will continue flowing. We will not discuss when, or where, or what," he said.
Denied entry to the route, dozens of the trucks and oil tankers were parked along a main road near Peshawar, the regional capital.
Asked about security fears, Rehmatullah, a driver who gave only one name and said his truck was carrying a military vehicle of some sort, said, "This is our job, and we have to do it, but yes, we have a security risk every time we pass through the route."
Many of the supplies headed to foreign troops arrive in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi in unmarked, sealed shipping containers and are loaded onto trucks for the journey either to the border town of Chaman or the primary route, through the famed Khyber Pass.
Last week's ambush took place at the entrance to the pass. Police said around 60 masked militants forced the convoy to stop, briefly trading fire with nearby security officers. U.S. officials say the attackers seized two Humvees and a water truck. Several trucks carrying wheat for the World Food Program were also hijacked.
While critical of U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan's northwest tribal regions, both Pakistan's prime minister and president denied any plans to subvert the supply line as a pressure tactic in recent interviews with The Associated Press.
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, 30 insurgents were killed during a clash with U.S.-led coalition troops in Helmand province, a statement from the U.S. military said. There were no coalition or Afghan casualties, it said.
Also Saturday, in eastern Paktia province's Zurmat district the 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, the statement said. The militant was not identified.
Also Saturday in eastern Khost province, coalition and Afghan troops detained a militant leader of the network led by the Afghan insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani.
The United States 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 a main threat against U.S. forces and their allies in eastern Afghanistan.
On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered 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 a leader of the Afghan Taliban and headed the government toppled by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Since then, he has been in hiding but is believed to be 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.
In September, Taliban members met with Afghan and Pakistani officials, but there were no concrete results.
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.
On 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 was killed 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.
Attacks in Afghanistan are up 30 percent from 2007, military officials say. More than 5,400 people - most of them militants - have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to a tally of official figures provided to the AP.
__ Associated Press Writer Fisnik Abrashi reported from Kabul, Afghanistan.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081116/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan;_ylt=Ao6smvq8pnR9w6acn_N9yfys0NUE
 

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US supply trucks get armed escorts in Pakistan



Mon Nov 17, 7:57 AM ET

Troops of Pakistan paramilitary forces escort trucks carrying supplies for NATO and U.S. forces to neighboring Afghanistan through Pakistan's tribal area of Khyber near Peshawar on Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. Pakistan reopened the supply route critical to NATO and U.S. troops battling the Taliban.(AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

KHYBER PASS, Pakistan - Pakistan sent troops armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns to escort trucks Monday along a major supply route for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, part of new security measures to combat militant attacks.
The paramilitary guards traveled in pickup trucks alongside convoys as they snaked their way up Pakistan's Khyber Pass, an increasingly perilous 30-mile stretch. The response indicated Pakistan was taking seriously the threats to a route critical to Western forces battling Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, as well as ordinary criminals, are behind escalating violence in large parts of Pakistan's northwest regions bordering Afghanistan, including the Khyber region.
Pakistan stopped container trucks and oil tankers from using the pass last week after dozens of suspected Taliban militants hijacked trucks carrying Humvees bound for the U.S.-led coalition.
Before Monday, the some 300 or 400 supply trucks who traverse the passage daily had little or no security and were subject to frequent attacks, truck drivers say.
It was not possible to say what was being transported in Monday morning's convoy. Military supplies usually travel in sealed, unmarked containers. The pass is also a major civilian trade route.
Some analysts and Western officials have doubted Pakistan's willingness or ability to flush out militancy from its borders, amid outrage in the South Asian nation over U.S. missile strikes on extremists in its northwest region.
But in recent interviews with The Associated Press, Pakistan's prime minister and president brushed off the notion that they would subvert the Khyber supply route as a pressure tactic in the uneasy alliance.
It was unclear how effective the escorts from the paramilitary Frontier Corps will be. The corps is a poorly armed and little trained force that the government hopes can be turned into a unit capable of battling the Taliban.
Because its troops are local men, U.S. and Pakistani officials argue they are better equipped to win public sympathy in the northwest. But for the same reason, some observers point out the troops could subscribe to strong anti-American sentiment in the area.
U.S. special forces recently began a program to train the Frontier Corps to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida.
A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan insisted Monday that the temporary halting of convoys through the Khyber Pass had not impacted operations.
"We continue to move supplies through Pakistan to Afghanistan," said Lt. Cmdr. Walter Matthews. "I can't give you the route."
Bakhtiar Khan, a No. 2 government representative in Khyber, said troops were authorized to shoot any armed attackers who try to assault the convoys.
Akhtar Gul was among the drivers who waited for days to enter the pass. He was pleased to see the armed escorts.
"Previously we had many apprehensions about the security of our lives and the trucks," said Gul, who added that he did not know what was in the sealed container he was transporting. "But we hope that now it will be safe."
U.S. and NATO officials in Afghanistan have sought to play down threats to the convoys, but NATO has said it is close to striking deals with Central Asian countries that would let it transport "non-lethal" supplies from north of Afghanistan.

In April, NATO concluded a transit agreement with Russia, but it will be of practical use only when the Central Asian nations between Russia and Afghanistan come on board.
Most of the supplies headed to foreign troops in Afghanistan arrive in the port city of Karachi and are loaded onto trucks for the journey to the border town of Chaman or through the Khyber Pass.
___ Associated Press Writer Fisnik Abrashi contributed to this report from Kabul, Afghanistan.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081117/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan;_ylt=Apq9jRaq0VroolKIi4fVByys0NUE
 
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