Twenty-five years ago, the Taliban severed the Red Army's supply routes into Afghanistan and inside the country, thereby encompassing the Soviet Union's defeat and military withdrawal from the country.
The Afghan insurgents are trying the same tactic on the US-led NATO forces.
Sunday and Monday, Dec. 7 and 8, hundreds of very well-armed Taliban attacked three depots in the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar. In separate incidents, they destroyed some 200 trucks and containers packed with military equipment and supplies for American and NATO forces over the border in Afghanistan. The trucks contained dozens of Humvees, personnel carriers and other military hardware.
This was the third large-scale Taliban attack on NATO supplies in Pakistan in less than a month, highlighting the dire security threat to the transit route for the 80 percent of military supplies going into Afghanistan for some 70,000 NATO soldiers, including 31,000 Americans.
Last month, some 60 insurgents hijacked a convoy of trucks on the Khyber road between the two countries in broad daylight.
American commanders are doing their best to minimize the impact of these raids on the volume of supplies. But DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that the impact on Pakistan is dire. In Islamabad it is feared that Taliban is about to capture the entire town of Peshawar, thus gaining full control of the strategic Khyber section of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas running down the Afghan border.
NATO seeks alternative routes to circumvent Taliban attacks
Already, the mountainous Khyber area, including the key Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, is fully controlled by Taliban factions operating on both sides of the border.
The command post of Pakistan's 11th Division in Peshawar is located half a kilometer from the supply depot attacked Sunday. It was unable to prevent the attack. On the Afghan side of this sector, there is no American or NATO presence capable of tackling the insurgent raiders. The Taliban can therefore be expected to make Islamabad's worst fears come true in the coming weeks and then go on to strike the convoys of equipment, food, ammunition and fuel supplying the US-NATO forces in Afghanistan. Those convoys ply routes inside Pakistan running from Karachi port in the south, where the deliveries are unloaded from ships, up to Peshawar in the north.
Much of the fuel used by Western forces also comes from refineries in Pakistan. Armed groups are reportedly getting set to attack the roads leading to them.
For this reason, some fuel is already being transported from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan directly into Afghanistan. Germany and Spain have concluded their own bilateral agreements for the trans-shipment of fuel from Moscow.
NATO headquarters in Brussels is preparing to find alternative supply routes. According to one source in the Belgian capital, under new logistic plans, containers may eventually be shipped across the Black Sea, then by rail through Georgia to Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea ports and on by road through Turkmenistan. The oil route's last lap to Afghanistan would either be direct or transited through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources note that, given the current tense situation around the Black Sea and Georgia (as described in a separate article in this issue), these plans might well come to naught.
Negotiations will have to take place with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan before oil supplies for Afghanistan can be routed across their territories.