Operations in Afghanistan Not Affected by Gate Closing

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2010 — The clos­ing of the Torkham Gate cross­ing from Pak­istan to Afghanistan does not affect coali­tion oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said today.

The Unit­ed States and the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan is work­ing with the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment to re-open the gate, Mor­rell said at a Pen­ta­gon news brief­ing. A lot of fuel for ISAF flows through the gate from the port at Karachi to Afghanistan.

We have been giv­en indi­ca­tions that we are mak­ing progress on that front and hope to have the gate reopened as soon as pos­si­ble,” Mor­rell said.

Still the coali­tion has sup­plies com­ing in from oth­er access points in Pak­istan, via air from Man­as, Kyr­gyzs­tan, and through the North­ern Sup­ply Route. “Thus far, even with the clo­sure of the Torkham Gate, which is an impor­tant route for us, it has not in any way adverse­ly impact­ed our abil­i­ty to sup­ply our forces,” he said.

Pak­istani Tal­iban have attacked tank trucks car­ry­ing fuel in Rawalpin­di, Pak­istan, and the coali­tion has had to live with such attacks for years, Mor­rell said.

They are some­times sen­sa­tion­al, and they are some­times hor­rif­ic, and they are some­times dead­ly, and that is trag­ic,” he said. “But if you put this in con­text and in per­spec­tive, we’re talk­ing about … impact­ing about 1 per­cent of the sup­plies that we fun­nel through Pak­istan into Afghanistan. So they have nev­er real­ly adverse­ly impact­ed our abil­i­ty to con­duct oper­a­tions in Afghanistan.”

It is in Pakistan’s inter­est to open the gate and ensure secu­ri­ty for con­voys bring­ing sup­plies to Afghanistan, the press sec­re­tary said. “This is a huge com­mer­cial enter­prise for them, and they do not get paid until that fuel is deliv­ered to the point of des­ti­na­tion in Afghanistan,” he said. “So they have incen­tive to pro­tect the con­voys, to make sure that the sit­u­a­tion is such that they can get to their des­ti­na­tion safe­ly.”

Pak­istan has its own prob­lems with ter­ror­ists, and the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment said they closed the Torkham Gate to pro­tect the con­voys. In the after­math of an ISAF heli­copter killing three Pak­istani Fron­tier Corps sol­diers, Pak­istani offi­cials said they thought it best to shut down the gate, elim­i­nat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of attacks on con­voys as they move through the nar­row pas­sage.

Mor­rell said the mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan remains sol­id. The two mil­i­taries are engaged at almost every lev­el with Pak­istani offi­cers and non-com­mis­sioned offi­cers train­ing in the Unit­ed States. The Pak­istani navy works in the Indi­an Ocean com­bat­ing pira­cy and helps patrol and secure the Per­sian Gulf.

There are going to be set­backs in rela­tions, but the con­ver­sa­tions among U.S. and Pak­istani mil­i­tary lead­ers con­tin­ue, Mor­rell said, and both nations face the dan­gers of ter­ror­ism.

There are ter­ror­ists who exist and oper­ate and con­duct oper­a­tions in Pak­istan as well as those who exist and oper­ate and con­duct oper­a­tions in Afghanistan,” Mor­rell said. “That’s why our strat­e­gy is about Afghanistan and Pak­istan. We can­not divorce these two enti­ties from one anoth­er. Obvi­ous­ly, we are able to main­tain dis­tinct bilat­er­al rela­tion­ships with each, but in terms of a ter­ror­ist prob­lem, this is one we’ve col­lec­tive­ly got to deal with.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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