KABUL Nov 26 NATO helicopters attacked a
military checkpoint in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing
up to 28 troops and prompting Pakistan to shut the vital supply
route for NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistani
NATO supply trucks and fuel tankers bound for Afghanistan
were halted at Jamrud town in the Khyber tribal region near the
city of Peshawar hours after the raid, officials said.
Following are some facts about the Pakistani supply routes
for NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan and the alternatives:
THE ROUTES AND SUPPLIES
There are two routes into Afghanistan from Pakistan, one
across the Khyber Pass to the Afghan border town of Torkham and
on to Kabul. The other goes through Pakistan's Baluchistan
province to the border town of Chaman and on to the southern
Afghan city, and former Taliban stronghold, of Kandahar.
Between them these two routes account for just under one
third of all cargo that the NATO-led International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) ships into Afghanistan.
Just over one third of all cargo goes on routes dubbed the
"northern distribution network" through Central Asia, and the
Caucasus or Russia. The remaining 31 percent is flown in.
NATO declined to give details of how the shipments through
Pakistan are divided between the two routes, but a spokesman
said the figures likely change each month.
Some imported supplies for the fledgling Afghan armed
forces, which the United States and its allies are building up,
also come through the Pakistani routes.
WHAT HAS CHANGED
As recently as July, the balance of supplies transiting
through Pakistan and the northern distribution network were
weighted in Pakistan's favour, with slightly more than half of
ground-transported supplies arriving through Khyber or Chaman.
After a string of disruptions, NATO-led forces and the U.S.
military decided to push supply networks away from reliance on
Pakistan. The United States has gone even further than other
nations in the alliance with a target that only 25 percent of
ground cargo should arrive via Afghanistan's eastern neighbour.
This was done with the goal of "reducing reliance on any
single line of communication to avoid any unnecessary
vulnerabilities should that network become unavailable,"
according to an ISAF spokeswoman.
Two cross-border attacks by NATO aircraft in autumn 2010,
that killed three Pakistan soldiers, closed one supply route
through Pakistan for several days. NATO apologised for the
incident, which it said happened when its gunships mistook
warning shots by the Pakistani forces for a militant attack.
In April a rally on a key highway by thousands of people
against drone strikes again closed the supply route briefly.
The routes through Pakistan, particularly the northern one,
are also vulnerable to insurgent attacks. In May a bomb on a
NATO fuel truck killed at least 16 people in the Khyber area.
The northern distribution network threads through either
Russia or the Caucasus, across the Central Asian states of
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and then into northern Afghanistan.
It is largely used to bring commercial-type cargo --
described by ISAF as "sustainment items like food and spare
parts" to troops serving in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan also has a border with Turkmenistan to the
northwest, and Tajikistan to the north, and a sliver of remote
mountainous territory connects with China in the far northeast
-- but that is too remote and high-altitude to make a major
What would be a convenient and cheap link through Iran's
port of Chabahar to western Afghanistan is ruled out by
hostility between Tehran and Washington.