By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 2, 2009 - The Pakistani military is making good progress against militants who have threatened a major supply route running from Pakistan into Afghanistan, U.S. officials said here today. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan are "cautiously optimistic" regarding recent news reports that cite Pakistani forces' success in driving militants away from the Khyber Pass region, U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman Army Col. Jerry O'Hara said in a telephone interview with American Forces Press Service today.
Pakistani forces launched an offensive Dec. 30 to target militants who, in recent weeks, have attacked some supply convoys that transit the Khyber Pass.
That supply route runs hundreds of miles from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan and then through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. The Khyber Pass route provides about 75 percent of the U.S. supplies to troops in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani military actions directed against militants who operate in the Khyber Pass area are providing "security of the Peshawar [supply] terminals and our supply lines," O'Hara said.
Pakistan's operations in the Khyber Pass region are achieving success, Washington-based U.S. State Department spokesman Fred Lash said today during a phone interview with American Forces Press Service.
"We certainly welcome that kind of cooperation we're seeing," Lash said, noting he understands that Pakistani forces "are making good progress" against the militants.
The United States appreciates Pakistan's actions against militants operating along the border with Afghanistan, Lash said, as well as Pakistan's arrests of suspects following the November terrorist attack on Mumbai, India.
"We welcome the full and transparent cooperation of Pakistan in all matters like this," Lash said. "Not only in trying to ferret out the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack, but actions such as this in the Khyber-Pass region just shows they are cooperating more in a lot of ways."
The Khyber Pass supply route was temporarily closed at the start of the Pakistani offensive, but U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO International Security Force officials had noted in a recent joint statement that closure of the supply route had "no immediate impact on our ability to provide supplies to the troops" in Afghanistan. Due to the offensive's success, the Khyber Pass route was reopened today, according to news reports.
Meanwhile, U.S. military officials have been looking for other supply-route options. U.S. Transportation Command's top officer, Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, traveled to several Central Asian countries in November to explore options for establishing added supply routes for Afghanistan operations, Transcom spokeswoman Cynthia Bauer said Dec. 31 during a telephone interview with American Forces Press Service. Transcom is based at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
"We've been looking at alternate distribution routes for a while," Bauer said.