WHILE the overland route for Nato convoys transporting supplies to Afghanistan through this country may have reopened last month after a seven-month closure, security of the convoys clearly remains an issue. On Monday an Afghan driver — part of such a convoy — was shot dead by suspected militants in Khyber Agency’s Jamrud Tehsil on the Peshawar-Torkham highway. This is reportedly the second attack in the area since the route reopened; the first occurred on July 24 in which a similar modus operandi was used by the attackers. Assailants on motorbikes ambushed the convoy, killing a driver. The shadowy Abdullah Azzam Brigade has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack. Before the closure of the route convoys had also come under attack. But while previously vehicles were targeted by, for example, rockets fired at the containers, the past couple of incidents suggest a conscious effort is being made to kill or intimidate the drivers.
The main issue appears to be a lack of coordination between the different law-enforcement agencies active in the area. While police are responsible for law enforcement in the settled areas, khasadars and the Frontier Corps handle security in the tribal regions. It has been noted by some that the FC does not appear to be cooperating with the khasadars, while it is also true that the khasadars, made up of tribal recruits, don’t have the intelligence capabilities or resources to thwart militant attacks. Khasadars reportedly tried, and failed, to pursue the attackers in the latest ambush. Another view is that since the khasadars are local tribesmen, they may be reluctant about taking on the Taliban. In such a scenario, the FC should take the lead in providing security to the convoys in their journeys to and from Afghanistan. While the goods may be insured, the drivers have to pay with their lives. An effective, well-thought-out security plan is essential for the protection of the convoys and their drivers transiting through Torkham and Chaman, especially when the local Taliban have made it clear they will not spare them.