`US must reduce dependence on Pakistani supply routes`

Nearly 80% of supplies for war effort in Afghanistan currently transit Pak.

Washington: The US must reduce its dependence on Pakistani routes to supply materials to Afghanistan as it provides Islamabad leverage to resist any pressure to shut down Taliban sanctuaries, a noted American scholar has said.

"The US should focus on opening access routes outside of Pakistan to re-supply its troops inside Afghanistan," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.

"Not only are the Pakistani supply routes increasingly under threat of militant attacks, the US dependence on Pakistani supply routes provides Islamabad leverage to resist US pressure to shut down Taliban sanctuaries and to crack down more forcefully on terrorist networks, like the Haqqani network, that attack coalition forces across the border and threaten the overall mission in Afghanistan," she wrote.

Pakistan`s closure of one of the main NATO supply routes into Afghanistan and the string of attacks on NATO convoys transiting Pakistan over the last few days highlights the vulnerability of the entire coalition mission in Afghanistan to events inside Pakistan, Curtis said.

Nearly 80 percent of supplies for the war effort in Afghanistan currently transit Pakistan.

There have been several militant attacks on NATO trucks in the past but this is the first time Pakistan has formally closed down one of the border crossings, she said.

"The border closure demonstrates Islamabad’s furore over last week’s NATO strike that accidentally killed three Pakistani troops," she said, adding NATO officials did not immediately issue an apology and instead claimed they had fired in self-defence.”

"Islamabad is signalling the international community not to take for granted its sovereignty and cooperation with the Afghan war effort. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s official apology to the Pakistani Foreign Minister today should help soothe Pakistani anger over the incident," she observed.

Curtis said the incident is similar to one that occurred in June 2008 in which a US air strike on the border killed 11 Pakistani troops.

"Both of these unfortunate incidents point to the challenges of fighting an effective campaign against insurgents who cross freely back and forth along a porous Afghan-Pakistani border.”

“While the 2008 incident raised tensions between the US and Pakistan, it did not cause a major rupture in the relationship nor did it lead the Pakistanis to halt NATO convoys like they have this time," she said.