Exclusive: On Pakistan's Khyber Pass

It is only about 30 miles from Peshawar, Pakistan, to Afghanistan's border where the Torkham Gate that divides the border is built. But it is 30 miles of the steepest, most white-knuckle driving you can imagine.

Think 2,000 feet up, on only dirt and gravel in some places, where guard rails are rare, and two or three trucks compete for space that can accommodate only one.

Throw in the fact that roadside bombs and mortars still can be a threat, militants still hide in the hillsides above you and you get the idea what kind of drive this is.

But this road is absolutely essential for bringing U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan essential food and military equipment. More than 80 percent of the supplies for the forces are brought in by road, and almost all of them on this road.

We are some of the first foreign journalists to follow a NATO convoy from Peshawar to Afghanistan since a series of deadly attacks that left the road impassable at times during the last few years.

Starting out our drive is a challenge in itself. Peshawar is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Gun battles break out in the streets. Kidnappings and killings are commonplace, and the city's most expensive hotel, the Pearl Continental, was blown up by suicide bombers earlier this summer.

As you head out of Peshawar into the tribal areas, a faded brown sign warns that foreigners are not allowed.

We travel the route accompanied by the Frontier Corps, which is in charge of these tribal areas. A small pickup truck with armed men drives in front of us, another behind us. We often get separated on the crowded switchback roads.

This was the first time I was able to see firsthand the blown-up bridges and a mosque, reduced to a powdery rubble after it was blown up many months ago. Burned-out NATO vehicles from prior attacks are visible as well.

Those attacks destroyed tons and tons of NATO equipment, prompting Pakistan's Frontier Corps to launch a military campaign in December which has significantly reduced violence.

Pakistani Colonel: Taliban and Insurgents Defeated in Northwest Pakistan

Col. Furqan Tareen, who is with the Frontier Corps' "Khyber Rifles," says that his frontiersmen are still attacked occasionally by rockets, but respond with mortars and machine guns.

"We give a very, very tough response," Tareen said.

Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, who heads the Frontier Corps, said he believes that the Taliban and the militancy in Pakistan are now defeated in Northwest Pakistan.

U.S. officials believe that, despite recent successes in Pakistan, including the death of Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, Khan's statement is premature, although he is widely praised in U.S. circles for his efforts in the tribal regions. Yet, there are still fears that extremists may simply fade into the mountains for the time being, only to return at a later date.

But for now, more than 150 NATO trucks are navigating this road every day, and with the war in Afghanistan intensifying, it is more important than ever that this route stay open.

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