US troops rebuild the bridge at Torkham in August, 2009 after it was wiped out by a flash flood, only for Pakistan to close this key supply route border crossing in September, 2010 in response to multiple US air raids into Pakistan. (ISAFMedia photo on Flickr)
On Monday, I posed the question "How much more US abuse will Pakistan tolerate?" It turns out that the answer is "Not very much." Pakistan has closed a key border crossing into Afghanistan used as a supply route by NATO after the latest reports of a NATO raid into Pakistan resulted in the deaths of three Pakistani troops.
The Reuters report on the closure makes it sound like a local decision:
Trucks and fuel tankers for foreign forces in Afghanistan were stopped at Torkham border post in Khyber tribal region near the city of Peshawar, hours after the raid, the fourth reported by Pakistani authorities in recent days.
"Yes, the NATO supplies have been stopped. It has been done locally," a senior security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
However, the Washington Post report on the closure makes it clear that the decision to close the crossing was made at a very high level:
Officials at the Torkham border post and in the region said they had been ordered by federal officials to stop NATO convoys.
Today’s action in closing the key supply route was in response to yet another incident of NATO helicopters conducting raids in Pakistan, but this time Pakistani troops died. From the Reuters link above:
Early on Thursday, two NATO helicopters from Afghanistan attacked a border village in Pakistan’s Kurram region, the Pakistani security official said.
"The helicopters shelled the area for about 25 minutes. Three of our soldiers manning a border post were killed and three wounded," he said.
NATO disputes this report. No information regarding the incident is currently on the ISAF Afghanistan news site and the same Reuters article cites a NATO spokesman:
But ISAF spokeswoman Major Sunset Belinsky said the helicopters targeted militants in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province, opposite Kurram, and they did not cross into Pakistan.
The Washington Post article quotes a different NATO spokesman on the denial:
Pakistan has reported the alleged deaths to NATO forces in Afghanistan, and NATO is investigating whether the report is linked to an airstrike this morning against insurgents in Paktia province, which also borders Pakistan, said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a NATO spokesman. The international forces involved in that operation said the insurgents fired mortars at a coalition base from a spot inside Afghanistan and that helicopters did not cross into Pakistani airspace, Dorrian said.
A Pakistani official explained to the Washington Post the thinking behind the closure:
A senior military official said the move was made in protest of that attack and other recent NATO airstrikes in Pakistan. Pakistan believes the strikes have been carried out as "pressure tactics" meant to force the Pakistani army to conduct operations against al-Qaeda and Afghan insurgents based in the mountainous tribal area of North Waziristan, the official said.
Ironically enough, the photo above was taken a year ago as ISAF rebuilt a bridge at the Torkham border crossing after it was wiped out by a flash flood. Now, because of increasingly provocative behavior by US forces operating as NATO, this rebuilt bridge is useless.