Pakistani Troops Fire On NATO Helicopters
I think it’s safe to say that tensions between Pakistan and US/NATO forces in Afghanistan are on a bit of a hair trigger:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani ground troops opened fire on two NATO helicopters that crossed into Pakistan’s airspace from Afghanistan early Tuesday morning, the Pakistani Army said in a statement. A firefight then briefly erupted between NATO forces and the troops, the statement said, and two Pakistani soldiers were wounded.
The clash took place at Admi Kot Post in the North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan, an area that American officials have long regarded as a haven used by militants to attack coalition forces inside Afghanistan. NATO officials said they were looking into the incident, and could not immediately confirm whether the helicopters had indeed entered Pakistan’s airspace.
The exchange of fire between NATO and Pakistani forces appeared likely to worsen frictions between Pakistan and the United States. The Pakistani Army “lodged a strong protest and demanded a flag meeting,” the statement said, referring to a meeting between officials from Pakistan and NATO.
Last September, Pakistan shut down for more than a week the land route through Pakistan that NATO uses to supply its forces in Afghanistan, after two Pakistani paramilitary soldiers were killed in a similar border clash.
Tuesday’s clash came as Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, traveled to Beijing. Analysts said that visit was meant to signal to the United States that Pakistan saw China as an alternative source of security and economic aid.
On Monday, Senator John Kerry met with top civil and military leaders in Pakistan in an effort to smooth the fraying relations between the two countries in the wake of the American raid by forces that killed Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani Parliament in a closed-door session last week urged the government to renew and revisit its terms of engagement with the United States. It also warned that it might sever supply lines to coalition forces in Afghanistan if there were further unilateral incursions.
Without a reliable supply route through Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan would be nearly impossible to fight. Tell me again why we call them our “ally”?
Because they provide us with a reliable supply route through their country? And “ally” is a nice word to call them in public, as opposed to whatever we might think of them in private.
Pakistan, its people, its politicians and the various factions that run the country have their own interests. Those interests aren’t the same as ours, and many Pakistanis are naturally unhappy about what we’re doing in their country and in Afghanistan. Though, of course, shooting at us is not something we can tolerate.
Pakistan is pandora’s box. I just wish we’d stop kicking it. The lid is not firmly latched.
I think that you need to look at this incident through the prism of domestic Pakistani politics, Doug. The Pakistani government and, more importantly, the Pakistani military were embarrassed by the raid deep into Pakistani territory, into the heart of what is to a large degree a military base, to kill Osama bin Laden.
Now the Pakistani military are proving that they’re standing up to the Americans. No American helipcopter will violate sacred Pakistani air space! Even though the reality may be that the Americans can enter Pakistani air space largely at will.
We’ll see more of this. The Pakistani military and elite are fighting for survival. And I don’t mean against the Americans.
Just remember: We need to keep a strong alliance with Pakistan in order to facilitate the War in Afghanistan. And we need to keep fighting the War in Afghanistan in order to keep a strong alliance with Pakistan.
It all makes sense.
Fair point, but the danger of incidents of this type is that they can quickly get out of control if, say, the Pakistanis actually succeed in hitting an American aircraft or we end up killing Pakistani troops.
I think we ought to let Pakistan know we want to improve our relationship and military exchanges with India.