Afghan border strike may hit oil supply to NATO troops
Apr 29, 2007 - 4:51:33 PM

Islamabad, April 29 - Supplies of oil to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan may be disrupted after truckers angry at high taxes and extortion sealed a key route from Pakistan, a press report said Sunday.

Transporters that have blocked traffic at the Torkham crossing point near the Pakistani city of Peshawar since Friday are seeking to bring tanker firms into the dispute, commercial transporters told the Dawn newspaper.

The US forces in Afghanistan were unable to comment on the impact of the strike on their oil supplies but noted that the blockade was organized on the Pakistani side of the border.

'We are onlookers as much as anyone else,' US military spokesman Major William Mitchell said.

Pakistani and Afghan trucking companies mounted the action in response to a steep hike in road taxes in 2006 and the extortion by warlords and security personnel in Afghanistan of large sums of money from drivers.

Landlocked Afghanistan receives most of its imports via the Pakistani seaport of Karachi. More than 350 trucks reportedly carry an average of 7,000 tonnes of goods each day from Peshawar to Kabul and eastern and northern Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass.

Every truck pays the equivalent of $6,500 in taxes and bribes each year, Sawab Khan, a member of the truckers' association, told the BBC.

'This is too much for our transporters, who are mostly poor and hard-pressed to make both ends meet,' he said.

Shakir Afridi, a Pakistani transporter, told Dawn that truckers' representatives have relayed their demands to the Afghan government in Kabul. But they were also in talks with companies to halt the oil supply to foreign forces in Afghanistan from Sunday, he said.

Scores of trucks have had to dump cargoes at warehouses in Peshawar because of the protest, which has disrupted supplies to eastern and northern Afghanistan. As well as oil, many other goods used at foreign military bases are trucked in from Pakistan.

Supplies to southern and western Afghan provinces are sent through the Pakistani city of Quetta and across the Chaman border point in the Balochistan province. Companies working the route say they encounter fewer problems and are not planning to strike.

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