The first truck carrying supplies to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan has crossed the Pakistani border after a seven-month-long closure of the supply routes by Pakistan ended earlier this week.
The reopening is a rare bright spot in relations between the US and Pakistan, which had closed the routes in retaliation for US airstrikes in November last year that killed 24 Pakistani border troops. Disagreements over issues like US drone strikes and Islamabad’s alleged support for Taliban militants still hamper a relationship vital to stabilizing Afghanistan.
During the closure, the US was forced to use more costly and lengthy routes through the former Soviet Union.
After months of back-and-forth negotiation, Pakistan reopened the routes on Tuesday after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized for the border deaths.
A paramilitary official at the Chaman border crossing, Fazal Bari, said the first truck moved across the border about noon. The Chaman border crossing in the province of Balochistan is one of two used by trucks carrying supplies to Afghanistan. The other called the Torkham crossing is further north in the Khyber Pass, a high mountainous area.
In the port city of Karachi, truck drivers early yesterday morning were preparing their vehicles for the trip. Thousands of trucks and tankers have been stuck at ports in Karachi waiting for the transit ban to be lifted.
“Today almost after eight months NATO supply has been started. I am taking NATO cargo to Peshawar where this cargo will be shifted to trailers taking the same to Kabul,” driver Javed Iqbal said.
The chairman of Port Qasim, Mohammad Shafi, said more than 2,500 NATO containers and vehicles have been held at the facility since the route blockade.
Even though the route is now open, it does not mean all the trucks will hit the road immediately. He said his staff is required to do a lot of paper work and customs clearance procedures before the trucks can leave.