NATO plays down attacks on supplies
* Head of NATO’s military panel rejects reports Taliban gaining stranglehold
BRUSSELS: NATO played down on Tuesday a recent spate of attacks on depots and convoys on a key Pakistan route, saying supplies were still getting through to its force in strife-torn Afghanistan.
“The Pakistani route is still open, is still safe,” Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, the head of NATO’s military committee, told reporters.
“For the moment the supplies are passing,” he added.
His remarks came after haulage companies in Pakistan said they had stopped delivering to foreign troops in Afghanistan after a major deterioration in security along the supply route to the Khyber Pass.
The bulk of the supplies and equipment required by NATO and US-led forces battling the Taliban insurgency on the border is transported through Pakistan’s restive Tribal Areas to Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass. Di Paola said NATO was looking to diversify its supplies, with progress being made on an agreement with Russia to allow non-lethal equipment to be shipped through to its troops, adding that talks with Turkmenistan were also advancing.
Stranglehold: Di Paola rejected reports that the Taliban are gaining a stranglehold on the country.
Di Paola conceded that the intensity of insurgent activity more than seven years after US-led forces ousted the Taliban government was worrying and unexpected.
“But still the security situation is not as bleak, as doomy and gloomy, as the press depict,” he added.
A report this month by the International Council on Security and Development think tank that said the Taliban had a permanent presence in 72 percent of Afghanistan and were ‘closing a noose’ around the capital Kabul.
Di Paola said the critical test for the international effort in Afghanistan, involving more than 60,000 troops from more than 40 nations, would be the presidential election next year.
The process of election registration in the north, east and part of the west had so far been “smooth — easy as a piece of cake”, and the test would be how this went in the provinces bordering Pakistan worst troubled by insurgents, said Di Paola.
Di Paola said European allies needed to commit more forces, both to hold territory and to train Afghan security forces. agencies