AF/PAK: From Bad to Worse (Updated)

December 2, 2011 at 12:44 am Leave a comment

Big Mistake, Big Mess

U.S.-Pakistani relations – not in the best of shape for over a year – are going from bad to worse since a NATO airstrike near the Khyber Pass and the Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers over the weekend.

Furious Pakistani officials are boycotting an international conference in Bonn, Germany next week to discuss the future of post-war Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO pull out their troops in 2014. U.S. officials say Pakistani participation is crucial in any attempts to secure peace in the region.

CIA World Factbook

One of the things causing outrage in Pakistan and major headaches for coalition forces fighting al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan is a claim by a top Pakistani general leaders that the attack was deliberate. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff denies that.

At best, Pakistani government officials say, the U.S. was negligent in not communicating with them before and during the attack. However, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that NATO officials contacted the Pakistani military about the planned attack and got the go-ahead from officials who did not know their troops were in the area.

Now the Pakistanis say the U.S. and/or NATO gave them the wrong location of the planned air strikes and went ahead without Pakistani clearance. The AP story is here.

Pakistani officials closed major overland routes into Afghanistan, halting much-needed fuel, food and other supplies that is moved by truck from Pakistan. The trucks, which are stacking up on the Pakistani border are vulnerable to attack, which has happened in the past when Pakistan closed cross-border points. There is also concern that Pakistan, which has lost thousands of troops and police in battles with its own insurgents, might end its counter insurgency efforts out of frustration that it’s sacrifices in the war of terror are under appreciated by the allies, according to Reuters.

According to news reports, a joint NATO-Afghan force operating along the border came under heavy rocket fire apparently emanating from Pakistan. The ground troops called for air support and jets and helicopter gunships fired rockets, which struck two Pakistani Army outposts – killing 24 soldiers.

The U.N.’s International Security Assistance Force – under which U.S. And NATO forces are fighting in Afghanistan – is conducting an investigation into the incident, as is the U.S..

U.S. and NATO officials have called the incident a tragic mistake but the White House has not apologized pending the investigation’s outcome. Meanwhile, politicians in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, grow angrier every day. They’re still steamed over being left out of the loop when U.S. Commandos killed al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden in secret raid into Pakistan last May. Pakistan’s military commander has told his troops they can return fire if attacked again. And there have been anti-American demonstrations across Pakistan, some even calling for retaliatory military attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

But relations between the U.S. and Pakistan – a major player in the Afghan war – have been rocky for over a year. A CIA contractor killed two Pakistani civilians in what may – or may not have been a kidnap-robbery attempt. And U.S. military officials have accused Pakistan’s military intelligence agency of supporting Taliban attacks against U.S. troops.

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Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Counter Insurgency, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Pakistan. Tags: , , , , .

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