February 3, 2009, Islamabad, Pakistan – Supplies intended for NATO forces in Afghanistan were suspended Tuesday after Taliban militants blew up a highway bridge in the Khyber Pass region, a lawless northwestern tribal area straddling the border with Afghanistan.
Hidayatullah Khan, a government official in the region, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the 30-yard-long iron bridge was located 15 miles northwest of Peshawar, the capital of the restive North-West Frontier Province.
Pakistani officials said they were assessing the damage and teams had been sent to repair the bridge. But it was not immediately clear how soon the trucks carrying crucial supplies for NATO forces would be able to travel through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan.
More than 80 percent of the supplies for American and coalition forces in Afghanistan flow through Pakistan. Attacks aimed at choking the supply lines have become increasingly frequent and brazen, despite the presence of Pakistani security forces in the area.
Previously, the militants attacked convoys of cargo trucks with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles. Consequently, most truck drivers refused to make the trips as they became more dangerous.
In December, attacks by Taliban militants on NATO supply depots in Peshawar destroyed 300 cargo trucks and Humvee military vehicles.
The increasing vulnerability of the supply line passing through the border areas of Pakistan has forced United States and NATO to find new supply routes through Central Asia to deliver fuel, food and other supplies to coalition forces in Afghanistan.