Trucker strike cuts NATO supply lines through Pakistan

Major NATO military bases
Border crossings used in NATO supply lines
Karachi, where NATO supplies are shipped for transport to Afghanistan

Transport lines into Afghanistan, providing NATO troops – including U.S. soldiers – with the supplies they need for day-to-day living, are in jeopardy after the private Pakistani drivers who have been bringing supplies from the Karachi seaport into Afghanistan began a strike.

The strike began in response to the government’s decision to require truckers to go through authorized companies to carry NATO supplies instead of making individual deals with the government-run National Logistics Cell, said Jehanzeb Khan, head of a transport workers union in northwest Pakistan. The companies pay the truckers less, said Khan.

He also claimed the government was not providing adequate protection to the drivers from Taliban attacks, and each truck had to pay corrupt security officials about $165 in bribes to pass through the Khyber tribal area on the way to the border.

These same supply lines have been broken before. In Nov. 2011, the Pakistani government cut off NATO supply after an airstrike-gone-wrong killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. That lasted over six months, during which time the supplies had to be shipped through Russia and Central Asia via a longer route which cost more than $2 billion extra over that period.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops are more concentrated in the eastern regions of Afghanistan, making the Pakistani supply lines ideal. But the Pakistani government, in what they say was an effort to reduce theft and disorder in the logistical undertaking of supplying the roughly 100,000 ISAF troops in Afghanistan, mandated the drivers go through officially approved companies in order to be hired for the jobs.

The drivers, however, call the regulation a government attempt to strip them of a decent paycheck. They say they won’t go back to work until the Pakistani government reverses the mandate.

Because the truckers are only loosely organized, not all have stopped working. Though no trucks were reported passing through the more northern Torkham Crossing Wednesday, according to an AP report, there were still supplies going through at Chaman, which is well-positioned to supply the large ISAF airbase just outside Kandahar.

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