The flow of trucks supplying Nato troops in Afghanistan has surged at a key border crossing in recent days, officials revealed on Wednesday, despite a deadly attack and protests.
Few containers had trickled across the border since Islamabad reopened the routes three weeks ago, but officials at Torkham, Khyber Agency, said more than 100 had crossed in the last two days.
Islamabad closed its land routes to Nato convoys in November following botched US air strikes that killed 24 soldiers, but reopened them on July 3 after Washington issued an apology for the deaths.
“More than a 100 trucks have crossed Torkham border in the past two days, a total of 140 have so far crossed into Afghanistan,” Obaidullah Khan, a customs official at Torkham, told AFP.
Before the blockade, around 150 trucks crossed into Afghanistan each day at Torkham – the closest border crossing to Kabul – and officials say the flow will rise to up to 300 a day.
News of the increase came a day after gunmen attacked Nato supply trucks near a market in Jamrud town in Khyber, killing a driver. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attack but the Taliban have threatened to attack Nato trucks and kill their drivers.
Mohammad Miraj, a senior administrative official at Torkham, confirmed the increase and added that security has been tightened because of the recent attack and the increased flow of trucks.
Routes blocked in Jamrud
While increased border traffic was observed at the Torkham border, there were reports that paramilitary forces in Jamrud Tehsil of Khyber Agency blocked the supply route for an unannounced period and sent back three containers to Peshawar on Wednesday.
Asmatullah Wazir, an official of Jamrud’s political administration, confirmed the incident and said that the Frontier Corps (FC) personnel have closed the route for Nato trucks for certain ‘security reasons’.
The official revealed that the FC personnel have returned three vehicles from Takhta Baig check-post.
An official of the paramilitary troop who was on duty at Takhta Baig check-post said that they were ordered by senior officials to block the routes for all kinds of Nato containers. “We have blocked the routes till further orders,” the official added.
The official said that the route had been closed due to Tuesday’s attack on Nato containers by militants in TD Bazzar of Jamrud.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY our correspondent in JAMRUD)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.