Thursday, September 30, 2010 3:51 AM
From the AP comes news of ever-dependable Pakistan" "Pakistan cuts NATO supply line after border shooting."
Such a brilliant stroke to make Pakistan a keystone of our war "strategy." Of course, what should we expect from a land where 79 percent of the populace favors the application of "strict sharia" in every Islamic country?
PARACHINAR, Pakistan — Pakistan blocked a vital supply route for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Thursday in apparent retaliation for an alleged cross-border helicopter strike by the coalition that killed three Pakistani frontier troops.
The blockade appeared to be a major escalation in tensions between Pakistan and the United States.
A permanent stoppage of supply trucks would place massive strains on the relationship between the two countries and hurt the Afghan war effort. Even a short halt is a reminder of the leverage Pakistan has over the United States at a crucial time in the 9-year-old war.
By midmorning, a line of around 100 NATO vehicles was waiting to cross the border into Afghanistan, officials said.
"We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies," Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said of the border incident, without mentioning the blockade.
NATO said it was investigating Pakistani reports that coalition aircraft had mistakenly attacked its forces. The coalition has on at least one other occasion acknowledged mistakenly killing Pakistani security forces stationed close to the border.
Over the weekend, NATO helicopters fired on targets in Pakistan at least two times, killing several suspected insurgents they had pursued over the border from Afghanistan. Pakistan's government protested the attacks, which came in a month during which there have been an unprecedented number of U.S. drone missile strikes in the northwest, inflaming already pervasive anti-American sentiment among Pakistanis.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told visiting CIA director Leon Panetta in Islamabad that Pakistan was "profoundly concerned" about the missile strikes and helicopter incursions.
"Pakistan being a front-line ally in the war against terror expects its partners to respect its territorial sovereignty," he said, according to a statement from his office.
Hours after the incident, Pakistani authorities were ordered to stop NATO supply trucks from crossing into Afghanistan at the Torkham border post, a major entryway for NATO materials at the edge of the Khyber tribal region, two government officials said.
No reason was given, but earlier this week Pakistan threatened to stop providing protection to NATO convoys if the alliance's helicopters attacked targets inside Pakistan again.
The other main route into Afghanistan in southeastern Pakistan had received no orders to stop NATO trucks from crossing, which they were doing as normal, said Syed Mohammed Agha, a spokesman for the Pashin Scouts border guards.
Some 80 percent of non-lethal supplies for foreign forces fighting in landlocked Afghanistan are transported over Pakistani soil after being unloaded at docks in Karachi, a port city in the south. While NATO and the United States have alternative supply routes, the Pakistani ones are the cheapest and most convenient.
Pakistan and the U.S. have a complicated, but vital, relationship, with distrust on both sides.
Vital? How about potentially fatal?
Polls show many Pakistanis regard the United States as an enemy, and conspiracy theories abound of U.S. troops wanting to attack Pakistan and take over its nuclear weapons. ...