Pakistan Opens Khyber Crossing to NATO Supply Trucks but issues Threats over Hot Pursuit

The Pakistani government has decided to reopen the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the route whereby 70 percent of US/ NATO supplies and 40 percent of fuel are brought by truck into Afghanistan. The Pakistani Frontier Corps and the Afghanistan National Army began work Sunday to coordinate the clearing of the huge backlog of trucks that have been stuck at the crossing for a week and a half. Some reports say that the opening is expected to occur on Monday.

Pakistan closed the crossing to trucks transporting goods for NATO & the US after a September 30 incident in which US helicopter gunships made incursions into Pakistani territory and then fired missiles at a Frontiers Corps checkpoint, apparently mistaking the scouts for Taliban. Two scouts were killed and four wounded. Pakistani nerves were already raw because of unmanned drone strikes on Pakistani territory. US President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus appear to have decided to push for more hot pursuit missions into Pakistan from Afghanistan, and this decision was absolutely unacceptable to the Pakistani military, as well as to the public. When the Frontiers Corps scouts were killed, Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani appears to have felt the moment opportune to nip the ‘hot pursuit’ doctrine in the bud by closing the main NATO transport route and reminding Washington just how badly it needs Pakistani good will.

The US and NATO were forced into uncharacteristic apologies to the Pakistani government, over which Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and President Asaf Zardari waxed lyrical, and which appear to have mollified public opinion somewhat and to have saved face for the Pakistani elite. My guess is that the US has given representations to Kayani that no uncoordinated hot pursuits will be launched into Pakistan from Afghanistan by the US military.

In fact, In fact, Interior Minister Rahman Malik openly threatened the US and NATO after the apology was issued:: “Pakistani forces are capable of defending the sovereignty of the country and in case of any incursion in future, they will use any option in response.”

To add insult to injury, the Pakistani government is considering imposing a tax on the NATO supply trucks. The huge trucks tear up the roads and do represent a cost to the government.

CNN has a video report on the reopening of the border crossing at the Khyber Pass:

In the past week and a half, as the border closure idled the some 3000 trucks that typically are on the roads supplying NATO, the Pakistani Taliban sent 150 fuel trucks into flames and killed 15 persons. Wire services quote some truck drivers as saying that driving these supply trucks is getting too risky.

The whole affair reveals how weak Bush’s wars have made the US. In 2001 Bush officials could just threaten to reduce Pakistan to rubble if it did not turn on the Taliban and join the Bush “war on terror.”

Now, with the US bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the wake of 9 years during which the US military was shown supremely vulnerable to unconventional military tactics, no such threat directed at Islamabad would be taken seriously. The US genuinely needs Pakistani help. The threats are being issued in the opposite direction, and the US military is the party that is being forced to swallow its pride and make an about-face on policy.

7 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    “Malik said the government had put across a strong message that Pakistan was a self-respecting nation and knows how to defend its sovereignty. “No country can tolerate breach of its sovereignty,” he added.”

    Do you think he has noticed people firing missiles from drones at his citizens or the 3000 man marauders crossing the border mentioned in Woodward’s book?

  2. Dear Professor Cole,

    “Now, with the US bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq ……..” Just leave. The world would be a much more peaceful place without the US bombing and destroying other countries all the time

  3. “The whole affair reveals how weak Bush’s wars have made the US. In 2001 Bush officials could just threaten to reduce Pakistan to rubble if it did not turn on the Taliban and join the Bush “war on terror.” ”

    Is this a difference of strength or of ruthlessness?

    We could still take Pakistan out but we seem to have learned our lesson of dealing with the aftermath in Iraq.

  4. So Pakistan opens the Khyber Crossing to NATO and, is Pakistan now back in “good graces” with the U.S.? Might that suggest that Pakistan can be removed from the ‘failed state’ category?

  5. What happens if Pakistan ups the ante and starts to introduce shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile’s to it’s Frontier Force? Sort of along the “Stinger missle” deals of old, say circa 1980’s? Will Pakistan purchase some S-400 batteries?

  6. The legal doctrine of “hot pursuit” allows a coastal state to chase pirates and criminals who have violate the law inside the coastal state’s waters, to chase them into and arrest them in international waters. It does not allow one coastal state’s ships to enter the territory of another coastal state in pursuit of criminals. The doctrine is entirely inapplicable on land anyway. It should not be raised as a justification for crossing another country’s land borders.

  7. Dunno if Pakistan will actually do anything, they’ve been threatening India with much worse forever and haven’t acted on it. And they’ve had border clashes with bullets going in both directions.
    Still, if it did come to blows, the US is pretty efficient at conventional warfare- the only warfare they’ve ever prepared for- so I doubt Pakistan would win. Of course if they decide to go the unconventional route then the US is fucked, as evidenced by their inability to grasp any decent COINOP strategy after Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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