Pakistan: Militants Seize Convoy of U.S./NATO Military Vehicles

by: Brandon Friedman

Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 19:59:35 PM EST

You know things are going poorly when photos like this start showing up:

(AP photo)

Those are Taliban militants in Pakistan with one of their brand new armored humvees that they stole after ambushing a convoy of supplies headed for U.S.-led forces across the border in Afghanistan.

From the AP:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Suspected Taliban fighters hijacked trucks carrying Humvees and other supplies for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan, authorities said Tuesday after a brazen attack near the Khyber Pass that underscored the militants’ grip across key mountain strongholds.The assault highlighted the vulnerability of a vital supply route for the 65,000 U.S. and NATO forces battling a resurgent Taliban in landlocked Afghanistan. A significant amount of supplies for the Western forces go through Pakistan.

Attacks on convoys carrying food, fuel and other supplies are common on the road. But Monday’s raid was especially large and well-organized. It also could further strain U.S.-Pakistani relations over rooting out Taliban and al-Qaida militants along the border, which remain entrenched despite military offensives and U.S. missile strikes.

Some 60 masked militants blocked the route at several points before overpowering the convoy, said Fazal Mahmood, a government official in Khyber tribal region. He identified the attackers as members of Pakistan’s Taliban movement.

Security forces traded fire with the gunmen, but were forced to retreat, he said. The militants took about 13 trucks along with the drivers, who were believed to be Pakistani.

A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan confirmed the thefts late Tuesday.

“There were some U.S. military materials that were taken – Humvees and water tank trailers,” said Maj. John Redfield.

Of course, that photo above looks like something straight out of the 1980s when the mujahedeen used to do this all the time to the Soviets.  And we all know how that turned out.

Now, I want to get out of Afghanistan as much as anyone, but this episode highlights the danger in leaving that place to its own devices.  Unlike Iraq, we don’t even control the main roads in Afghanistan–much less in Pakistan, where this attack took place.  That’s a huge liability.  And it guarantees that if we leave under the current conditions, Taliban militants will immediately seize control of Kabul and reinstate the form of government that was so hospitable to Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11.

It’s amazing that we’ve made so little progress in seven years (though, maybe not when you consider the reasons why).  However, the rapidly deteriorating situation is one that needs to be addressed immediately.  We all know that the long-term solution in Afghanistan is education and infrastructure–not military force.  But at this point, we have no choice but insert more combat forces into the fray in order to secure this free-wheeling fundamentalist circus they’ve got going on now.

It starts with photos of seized, empty military vehicles from an ambushed convoy.  If we’re not careful, it ends with photos of a seized convoy full of U.S.-backed Afghan government officials or U.S. military leaders.

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