Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Pakistan to reopen border crossing

Burning NATO oil tankers in Mithri, Pakistan, the latest attack on the supply line for international troops in Afghanistan since Pakistani authorities closed a key border crossing

Pakistan are to reopen a key border crossing used to transport supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan, authorities have said - the 10th day of a blockade that has raised tensions with Washington and left stranded trucks vulnerable to attack.

In a short statement, the foreign ministry said it decided to reopen the border after assessing security and that authorities on both sides of the border were co-ordinating to resume the supply traffic smoothly.

The border is normally closed on Sundays so Monday seemed like the soonest the flow of supplies over the crossing would resume, said US Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire, who welcomed the "positive development".

Pakistan closed the north-west crossing at Torkham on September 30, the same day a Nato air strike killed two Pakistani soldiers along the border.

On Wednesday, the US apologised for that strike after an investigation concluded the "tragic event could have been avoided with better coalition force co-ordination with the Pakistan military".

Pakistan is a key supply route for fuel, military vehicles, spare parts, clothing and other non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan. The closure of Torkham has left scores of trucks stranded on their way from the port city of Karachi, and bottlenecked traffic to the open but smaller Chaman crossing in the south-west.

Even when the border reopens, lingering tensions will remain in the US-Pakistan relationship, especially over Pakistan's unwillingness to go after Afghan Taliban militants on its territory with whom it has strong historical ties and who generally focus their attacks on Western troops, not Pakistani targets.

The US has dramatically increased the number of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt, including two on Friday in North Waziristan that killed nine suspected militants - the seventh and eighth missile strikes this month.

In September, the US was believed to have launched at least 21 such attacks, an unprecedented number and nearly all were in North Waziristan.

The US rarely acknowledges the covert missile strike programme. Pakistan officially opposes it but is believed to secretly support it.