Sunday, November 27, 2011
Pakistan has given the US an ultimatum to vacate an air base used for drone attacks and shut off the supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan in retaliation for what it claims was an unprovoked air attack on Pakistani troops that reportedly killed as many as 28 soldiers.
NATO sources claim that a joint US-Afghan force operating in the Afghan frontier province of Kunar was the first to come under attack and that they responded and called in air cover. It certainly wouldn't be the first time Pakistani forces have fired on US troops near the border.
The Pakistanis have a different story:
"NATO helicopters and fighter aircraft carried out unprovoked firing on two Pakistani Army border posts in Mohmand Agency as a result of which 24 troops embraced shahadat [martyrdom] and 13 were injured," the statement said. "Pakistani troops effectively responded immediately in self defence to NATO / ISAF's aggression with all available weapons."
The Pakistanis are actually claiming that the 40 soldiers stationed at the two outposts were all asleep at the time of the attack.
The Pakistanis immediately ordered the Torkhum Pass closed, thus cutting off about 70% of the supplies en route to our forces in Afghanistan. This has happened several times in the past, with the last occasion happening last year when the Pakistanis closed the Pass for ten days after two Pakistani frontier police were killed under murky circumstances. This, of course, makes the stranded supply trucks sitting ducks for the Taliban.
In addition, the Pakistani government gave the US an ultimatum to vacate Shamsi Air Base in Afghanistan within 15 days. Shamsi is a NATO logistics base and as a key part of the CIA's Predator and Reaper drone strikes campaign in North and South Waziristan, which has become the 'safe' zone for our enemies just over the Afghan border. The Pakistanis are upset because we stopped informing them in advance of upcoming strikes once we discovered they were tipping off our enemies in advance as to when the strikes were coming so they could get safely out of harm's way.
Our commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen predictably responded with the usual apologetic tone, saying, "This incident has my highest personal attention and my commitment to thoroughly investigate it to determine the facts.
"My most sincere and personal heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of any members of Pakistan Security Forces who may have been killed or injured."
OK, so what likely happened?
Given the absurd Rules of Engagement that would have made their grandfathers who fought WWII shake their heads in disbelief, I doubt our forces fired on the Pakistanis first, especially since the Pakistani troops were in border outposts the Americans undoubtedly knew about rather than shadowy figures scuttling across the ground.
There are two probable scenarios, and one possible one.
It's been well known for a long time that our 'allies' have been in bed with our enemies for quite some time, since a peaceful Afghanistan is not in Pakistan's interest. The border terrain there is rugged, and people like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban operate out of the border areas with impunity since the Pakistanis certainly don't stop them and in a number a cases actually assist them, as they did with the Haqqani Network's raid on Kabul a few months back. It's quite possible that a group of jihadis fired on the American-Afghan force from an area close enough to the border outposts ( with or without the knowledge of the troops stationed there) to convince the US troops that they were being fired on by the Pakistanis, especially since it's happened before.
It's also not much of a stretch that the Pakistanis indeed simply fired on the US forces.
The third, possible scenario is that the Pakistani government actually set this up knowing they would take a few casualties in order to whip up support in the streets for the government and perhaps drain a bit more baksheesh out of the US. Devious, but again, not out of the realm of possibility.