27 US Fuel Trucks Torched as Pakistan Blocks US Supplies at Khyber Pass for 2nd Day

Tensions between the United States (‘NATO”) and the Pakistani government boiled over on Thursday and Friday after American helicopter gunships killed 3 Pakistani Frontier Corpsmen and wounded 4 others. The two countries are nominally allies in the battle against Taliban and other extremists, but Pakistan stands accused of being selective in which extremists it wants to combat and of remaining anti-American even as it takes $8.5 bn. in aid from Washington.

Some 27 NATO fuel tankers parked near Shikarpur in northern Sindh near Sukkur, and sidelined because of the Pakistani blockade of such vehicles, were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades by insurgents early on Friday, turning them into a massive bonfire. They were presumably stuck in the south of the country because of the blockade of the Khyber Pass in the north.

This as, Friday morning, it was confirmed that Pakistani authorities were declining for a second day to allow NATO supply trucks to enter Afghanistan from Pakistani territory through the Khyber Pass, though other routes did appear still to be open.

Khabrain reports in Urdu that NATO helicopter gunships made incursions 5 km. into Pakistani territory from Afghanistan in the Kurram tribal agency and fired on a Pakistani checkpoint, killing 3 Pakistani Frontier Corps personnel and wounding 4 others. The incident produced a strong reaction from politicians, retired officers, and fundamentalist parties. Pakistani authorities say that the checkpoint guards tried to alert the US helicopters that they had strayed into Pakistani territory by firing in the air, but the US pilots mistook this action for a hostile attack and blew away the checkpoint.

AP has video on the killing of 3 Pakistani troops by American helicopter gunships:

President Asaf Ali Zardari told visiting CIA chief Leon Panetta that the US must respect Pakistani sovereignty. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani pointed out that the United Nations mandate to NATO was only for operations in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan, and Panetta is said to have granted the point.

Many Pakistanis are afraid that the US intends to make their country a Cambodia, spreading the war from Afghanistan into the Indus Valley,and they are determined to resist being made a theater of war.

Other Pakistanis were angrier. Former Army head Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg called for the Pakistani military to simply shoot down any American aircraft that made incursions into Pakistani territory. (Beg is a little crazy and in deep retirement and I doubt anyone pays attention to his crazy talk).

The radical fundamentalist newspaper Islam (Karachi) thundered on Thursday 9/20 that the incident was an act of war by the US against Pakistan (h/t USG Open Source Center)

“After frequent US drone attacks in tribal areas, the NATO forces, deployed in Afghanistan, have once again attacked the Pakistani tribal areas by their helicopters, which amount to declaring a war against Pakistan. The Foreign Office has lodged strong protest over NATO’s flagrant aggression against Pakistan, but it appears that United States and its allies will be not be influenced by verbal protests only. However, the threat to withdraw security of NATO supplies is very significant. There is need that without waiting for ‘another time,’ Pakistan should cut the supply of NATO through legal means so that they may realize the significance and the sovereignty of Pakistan (as published).”

Interestingly, the Pakistani government, which is led by the center-left Pakistan People’s Party, seems to have felt constrained to adopt this punitive response to the US, following through on the threat to block NATO convoys from delivering fuel and other materiel to US forces in Afghanistan (the convoys use Pakistani highways to come up from the port of Karachi to Peshawar and then across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan). (Some other routes into Afghanistan appear to remain open).

Reuters has video on the ensuing contretemps between Islamabad and Washington:

8 Responses

  1. Obama threatened to invade Pakistan “if necessary” during his campaign, and even McCain thought that was a bad idea.

    Now he’s going to do it, like he does everything – slowly and lying about it all the way.

    Between trying to start a war with Iran and continually expanding the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, despite all the Woodward stuff about trying to get out, it’s clear that Obama has a hidden agenda that people simply don’t comprehend. He’s owned and operated by the Chicago Crown family and General Dynamics and who knows who else in the military-industrial complex.

  2. American military intervention in Pakistan, either direct or through remote-controlled bombing, has parallels that reflect faith in counter-productive top-down thinking:
    1) the Fed thwarts market forces by holding interest rates at zero, making it easy for American companies to borrow American private savings in order to invest and create jobs overseas, as Walmart just said it will do in South Africa;
    2) instead of recognizing that the growing regulatory thicket governing commerce hampers capital investments that create jobs in the USA, Washington keeps setting up new bureaucracies that will issue yet more regulations;
    3) instead of letting large financial institutions and large industrial corporations go through the orderly process of bankruptcy when they fail, Washington props them up by seizing private savings that would have gone into job-creating capital investment;
    4) instead of letting states that have been overspending deal with the consequences, Washington is now planning on seizing private savings in order to rescue those states;
    5) instead of letting the marketplace explore alternatives to oil and coal, Washington under Bush II favored ethanol, which as a result distorted normal planting strategies, damaged topsoil and polluted the environment;
    6) the Tea Party, which says it wants to cut federal spending by shrinking the size of government, also wants to keep increasing the the far-flung activities of the military, and supports candidates who want to strengthen federal control of personal behavior.

  3. Anyone else find it strange that Militants are active in Sindh province? Sukkur is only 1% Pashtun with most being Sindhis and Punjabis both groups hostile to the Taliban.

    I can think of three reasons for this:

    1) The flooding in Pakistan (including Sindh province) has allowed the Pakistani Taliban to move further South into the normally insurgent-free Sindh province.

    2) The Pakistani Military could have torched the vehicles as a message to Washington.

    3) Local Residents are turning against the NATO force either in protest at the bombing campaign or the lack of relief.

    • Its not as simple as you think.
      Not all Sindhis and Punjabis are hostile to people with sympathies to the so called “taleban fighters”. Sindhis and Punjabis have a sizeable minority deobandi population among them. The majority of the original taleban govt in Afghanistan was deobandi.

      The radical newspaper “islam” in karachi is a deobandi newspaper. However, most of the population of Karachi, as in Sukkur, are hanafi-sufi Sunnis, reject the ideas of this newspaper and the deobandis.

      Sindh also has 5 million Pashtuns, who are always in Sukkur due to the transport business along the main highways. But not all pashtuns support deobandis either.

  4. That President Obama is waging war in Pakistan is continually saddening. We need to leave Pakistan and Afghanistan and I will never support this President till we stop these wars and leave.

  5. Repetition is insanity. This Vietnam vet can report our “allies” often shoot at “us” out of anger, boredom, differential allegiance, sense of abuse, self-defense, provocation, Fifth-Columning, what-ever. It’s not a dumb-simple game of Risk!(tm), though too many treat the world as if it is.

  6. Not that I want NATO personnel on helicopters to be killed or injured — really, I don’t; I just want them to come home — but why is it “crazy talk” to say that helicopters crossing over without permission should be shot down? What would happen if a Mexican helicopter “strayed” over to our side of the Rio Grande? Nothing good, I bet. Or maybe you are referring to other things the general has said that are crazy-sounding.

    • Tim, I could not agree more. Shooting at US aircraft would surely be a hazardous undertaking, but hardly crazy. I think the big dog is finally showing its fangs openly and no longer cares who is observing. The US has few real friends worldwide. However, they might get a bit more respect if they just spared us the hypocrisy. How about a clear statement of their strategic military and economic goals and no more talk of terrorists and spreading democracy.

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