U.S.-Afghan Supply Line Out of Business Again

Main supply line to U.S. troops in Afghanistan cut for the 3rd time in 6 months.

ByABC News
February 3, 2009, 10:24 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 3, 2009 — -- The main supply route to U.S. troops in Afghanistan was cut for the third time in six months today when militants blew up a small but crucial bridge in Pakistan's Khyber Agency.

The bridge, originally built when the British ruled the area, allowed some 300 trucks carrying NATO and U.S. equipment to cross a dry riverbed every day. While Pakistani officials said the supply line would reopen tomorrow, the attack underscores why U.S. officials have been pushing to find alternative means to bring supplies into landlocked Afghanistan.

"We are putting up a temporary bridge in the next 48 hours," the top political official in the Khyber Agency, Tariq Hayat, told ABC News. He said an alternative, temporary road was being created so trucks could continue crossing the border.

Today's attack is thelatest high profile targeting of the supply route, which ferries more than three-quarters of the material used in Afghanistan. But it is the first time militants have attacked a bridge.

Since the fall, militants in Khyber Agency and on the edge of Peshawar, the largest city in Pakistan's northwest, have burned or destroyed hundreds of supply trucks. Most of those trucks have been carrying building materials such as cement to prepare for additional troops -- as many as 35,000 -- the United States is sending to Afghanistan this year.

"This chain cannot be interrupted for any significant amount of time," Brig. Gen. Richard Blanchette, the spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan, told ABC News. But he, like all U.S. officials, argued that the attacks on the supply line have not affected the war effort.

The supply line "is something that is just too big for them to make too big a dent into," he said.

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces from the border of Libya to the border of India, recently told reporters in Islamabad that the United States had made deals with countries on Afghanistan's northern border. He did not elaborate. Those countries include Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and any deal to allow supplies into and out of those countries would also involve Russia.