Pakistan - Afghanistan

Nato Afghan convoys blocked over Pakistani soldier deaths

Reuters

Pakistan has cut off the main Nato supply route to Afghanistan after blaming international forces for the deaths of three of its soldiers in a cross-border attack. Pakistani officials say the move is for security reasons and will be temporary.

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Nato convoys have been blocked from crossing at the Torkham frontier post in Khyber district.

The move comes after Pakistani officials claimed that Nato helicopters staged an “unprovoked attack” early Thursday morning on a paramilitary post, killing three soldiers and wounding three others.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

They say the attack took place in Mandati village in Kurram district in the semi-autonomous tribal belt. It is the fourth alleged cross-border attack this week.

The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is investigating the claim. It confirms an air strike took place on Thursday morning but says that it was in response to mortar fire and that the team says that it did not cross into Pakistani air space.

On Monday Islamabad denounced cross-border air strikes as a violation of its sovereignty. The Pentagon responded Tuesday, saying that they were a result of “communication breakdowns”.

Thursday's move will not have a very serious effect, says correspondent Omar Waraich.

Q+A: Correspondent Omar Waraich

"This route has been closed a number of times," he told RFI. "It's an act of symbolic process, one that won't last long and will have negligible effect on the war in Afghanistan."

The incident casts light on what Pakistan is prepared to tolerate, Waraich believes. US drone strikes have reached a record level - 21 this month alone - but Pakistan has not reacted. But when it comes to boots on the ground, hot pursuits and helicopter incursions or airstrikes of any kind that are not drone-operated, Pakistan takes a hard line.

"These are the areas that will perhaps continue to frustrate the US-Pakistani relationship, but it will continue," he says. "It suggests there is an agreement on drone strikes. The Pakistan military jealously guards its sovereignty. It would not have remained as impassive as it has unless there was an agreement."

Deaths of Pakistanis in US drone attacks have provoked angry protests in Pakistan, where there is fierce criticism of the war in Afghanistan. The government has protested at claims that its security services, the ISI, maintain links with the Taliban.

In Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province a suicide bombing killed and injured a number of Afghans on Thursday, according to police. They say the blast took place on a road linking the provincial capital to the Pakistani border. The road also goes to the biggest US-run airbase in the country. 
 

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