Pakistan closes NATO supply route after latest US cross-border attack

Pakistan has shut down NATO’s primary lifeline into Afghanistan today after Coalition forces conducted another cross-border strike while engaging in hot pursuit of Haqqani Network fighters.

Pakistani security officials claimed that three members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps were killed after Coalition helicopters crossed the Afghan border into the tribal agency of Kurram, and “shelled the area for about 25 minutes,” Reuters reported. “Three of our soldiers manning a border post were killed and three wounded.”

The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that its helicopters briefly crossed the border and attacked “what it believed was a group of insurgents attempting to fire mortars at a Coalition base in the border area of Dand Patan district, Paktia province.”

“An ISAF air weapons team was called to provide fire support and engaged the suspected insurgents’ firing position, located inside Afghanistan along the border area,” the press release stated. “ISAF aircraft did enter into Pakistani airspace briefly as they engaged this initial target.”

The ISAF helicopters then came under “effective small arms fire from individuals just across the border in Pakistan.”

“Operating in self defense, the ISAF aircraft entered into Pakistani airspace killing several armed individuals,” the press release continued.

ISAF noted that an investigation into the incident was being looked into, and offered an apology to Pakistan even though it hasn’t been confirmed whether Pakistani troops were indeed killed.

“ISAF conveys our sincere condolences to the Pakistani military and the families of those who were killed or injured,” the statement concluded.

Pakistan’s Frontier Corps is known to provide support and cover to Taliban fighters crossing into Afghanistan to engage ISAF and Afghan forces.

Pakistan moved quickly to close the border after today’s incident, and questioned whether NATO is an enemy or an ally.

“We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told The Associated Press.

Today’s cross-border incident is the third since Sept. 25, when ISAF helicopters twice engaged Haqqani Network forces as they fled across the border from Khost into North Waziristan. More than 50 Haqqani Network fighters were reported killed in the strikes.

Pakistan has reacted angrily to the recent cross-border attacks, and yesterday threatened to take military and other action to halt the raids.

“We will not allow anyone in any case to interfere in Pakistan’s territory and if this continues, we will adopt all the set measures including military action,” Malik told reporters. “I assure you we are quite capable of defending our homeland.”

The closure of the NATO supply lines is not likely to last long. Pakistan reaps hundreds of millions of dollars a year in profits for allowing more than 70 percent of ISAF’s supplies to travel through Pakistani territory.

Over the past four years, the Taliban have targeted ISAF’s supply lines along the two main routes that pass through the Khyber Pass in the north and the Chaman border crossing in the south in Baluchistan. The Taliban have been destroying fuel tankers in Baluchistan on a near-daily basis, and routinely hit convoys in Khyber.

Pakistan objects to cross-border raids from Afghanistan

With respect to the recent cross-border raids, ISAF has maintained that it legitimately attacked Taliban forces as part of an existing policy of hot pursuit of enemy fighters.

US forces pursued the Taliban into Pakistan “after following the proper rules of engagement under inherent right of self defense,” Master Sergeant Matthew Summers, an ISAF spokesman, told The Long War Journal on Sept. 26.

But a spokesman at Pakistan’s Foreign Office rejected reports that such an agreement between ISAF and Pakistan exists, and said the incursions are a violation ISAF’s mandate.

“These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates,” spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement released by the Foreign Office, according to AFP.

“There are no agreed ‘hot pursuit’ rules,” Basit continued. “Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable. In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options.”

Background on agreement on cross-border activities between ISAF and Pakistan

Although the Pakistani Foreign Office denied the existence of any agreement that permits ISAF forces to enter Pakistan while in hot pursuit of Taliban fighters, the details of such an agreement have been known for years. In August 2007, The Associated Press released the text of the agreement.

The agreement between ISAF and Pakistan stipulated the following: US forces must be engaged with the Taliban or al Qaeda as they cross into Pakistan and US forces should not penetrate more than six miles into Pakistani territory. Also, US forces may enter Pakistan if they have identified the location of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahri, or Mullah Omar.

The US has pursued Taliban fighters across the border multiple times. Two of the most high-profile incidents occurred in 2008. The first took place in June 2008, when US troops pursued a Taliban force from Kunar into Pakistan’s tribal agency of Mohmand, and killed 11 fighters. The Pakistani government claimed that the US killed Frontier Corps troops, but the US released video of the incident showing the Taliban being targeted as they fled from Kunar into Mohmand. Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps is known to support the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The second incident took place in Khyber in November 2008, when US forces launched rocket attacks and ground strikes into the Tirah Valley, a known haven for al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Lashkar-e-Islam. Seven people were reported killed and three were wounded in the strikes.

The US also launches covert airstrikes using unmanned Predators and Reapers against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The Pakistani government officially protests the covert strikes but quietly approves. Twenty-one such strikes have been launched inside Pakistan this month; all but three have taken place in North Waziristan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • DL says:

    Here’s an idea. Once Taliban and AQ fighters stop attacking from Pakistan the US will stop killing them there. As a matter of fact, that logic goes for the entire Middle East.

  • Neonmeat says:

    You can say that again!
    They are basically saying they can attack you then run back to us and we won’t let you do anything about it.
    I think we can say this blockade is not going to last very long when you read:
    “The closure of the NATO supply lines is not likely to last long. Pakistan reaps billions of dollars a year in profits for allowing more than 70 percent of ISAF’s supplies to travel through Pakistani territory.”
    So yeah take our money and let our guys die, you think a little more cooperation would be in order.
    Although if ISAF have accidentally killed some Pakistani Soldiers then I can understand there annoyance but surely that means we need to cooperate more not less!

  • wallbangr says:

    That’s brilliant, Paks. Cut off the teet from which you feed. I understand that this is primarily for domestic consumption, but at some point the Paks should really watch what they wish for. “We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies.” Indeed, Mr. Malik, the nature of our relationship is quite clear.

  • Charley says:

    What were the Pakistani troops doing there on the return path of the retreating Talibs? Why did they not shoot the Taliban down? Clearly they were providing support to the Taliban and engaging the helicopters. We need to continue hot pursuit, since Pakistan will not help on the other side.
    If the Pakistanis continue with the blockade for another day, we should call their bluff and stop the billions of tax dollars being paid. Freeze their accounts.

  • Jase says:

    First off, I do not know what happened, perhaps Taliban were killed and not Frontier Corps.
    But if the Frontier Corps is supposed to be guarding the border, and if Frontier Corps were killed because Taliban were being targeted fleeing into Pakistan, then why didn’t the Frontier Corps stop or shoot at or kill the Taliban who were right next to their positions in Pakistan? Were Frontier Corp helping Taliban by shooting at pursuing U.S. forces?

  • My Cubical says:

    Will we ever try a New Approach. Nope.
    Coddle the “Terrorist Facilitator State” and “Pay it Off.”
    The Whole thing is just Disgusting & beyond Sanity.
    It’s time to Fly the BAT(s) remove some of there [Gold.]

  • DaveB says:

    CNN says, “The post, manned by six soldiers, is located 200 meters inside Pakistan, and troops fired their rifles to indicate that the helicopters were crossing into Pakistani territory.”
    As long as they weren’t taking pot shots at the US aircraft … shame they chose to shoot their rifles … too bad they don’t have some kind of Pak or friendly ground ID panels … too bad they didn’t interdict a Taliban force crossing in front of their noses from Pak into Afga to fire mortars at US forces … glad its not me who has to grovel and apologize for Pak perfididy and stupidity

  • madashell59 says:

    Charley: I agree. The troops probably got paid to let them through then could not get out of the way fast enough as the Talibs were crossing the border running away to what they thought was a safe haven. I hope to here more of the same.

  • Raven says:

    BBC says, “3 Pakistan soldiers killed and 3 wounded”. So there is more to it than just taliban crossing in a remote area to fight. Wonder how many “non-uniformed” Pak military men were killed in this attack. Hard to believe how much Pakistan as a state is involved in fighting ISAF.

  • Mr T says:

    “We will not allow anyone in any case to interfere in AFGHANISTAN territory and if this continues, we will adopt all the set measures including military action,” KARZAI told reporters. “I assure you we are quite capable of defending our homeland.”
    There. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. Pakistan allow attacks into Afghanistan but gets mad when people attack in their country. They want a fight and they may get more than they bargained for. They appear to be too ideological or dense to understand the meaning of that.
    The world community needs to stand by the country that is being attacked and that is Afghanistan.

  • Bungo says:

    “The troops probably got paid to let them through”
    I highly doubt the Pak soldiers are stupid enough to try to “shake down” a large group of heavily armed jihadists crossing over the border. It’s not like they’re carrying a bunch of money, not to mention how hazardous it would be to their health. The Paks are there to make sure ISAF forces don’t cross over.
    By the way, the U.S. Defense Department just said there are multiple supply routes through Pak to Afg. This is only a speed bump meant for the Pak population’s consumption and as a face-saving slap on the ISAF’s hand.

  • Rajat says:

    This incident reminds me of a similar one in 2008 when Pakistani troops at a border post were providing covering fire for Taliban/Haqqani fighters retreating from Afghanistan and ISAF aircraft vaporized the post.
    The only difference between a Pakistani solider and a terrorist is whether he is “on leave” or in active duty.
    If Pakistan chooses to blockade the supply lines, maybe Mr. Obama can stop the flow of aid dollars that is sustaining the Pakistan economy and the Generals’ lavish lifestyle and grandiose dreams.

  • wallbangr says:

    Good Sean Naylor read here about JSOC focusing in on the Haqqanis:

    Of particular relevence:

    But the task force is “not yet”

  • JRP says:

    It’s time to start getting tough with Pakistan. We have to do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves from the terrorists, who obviously are in it for the very long haul. Borrowing a page from Jack Kennedy, we should also warn the Pakistani Govt that any nuclear strike in USA will be deemed to have been launched by Pakistan and we will retaliate accordingly. Our biggest fear now should be that the terrorists are closer than ever before to acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistani stockpiles.

  • Jimmy says:

    This reaction from Pakistan to the NATO strikes across the border was expected. The way to treat a wound is to apply the medicine at the source. It pains for a while but in the long run it heals faster than just putting ointment around the wound.
    Pakistan is the real rotten part in this festering wound of Islamic Terrorism hell bent on consuming US, Europe and Asia. Just like the treated wound hurts, Pakistan is crying foul. We should not pamper Pakistan now! We have call its bluff! If they blockade supplies to the troops in Afghanistan, cut off their weapon supplies and stop the billion dollar cash aids. In a matter of days they will come back with a begging bowl. This airstrike was absolutely necessary to demostrate NATO’s resolve to Pakistan and I salute the new strategy adopted by Gen. Patreus and Pres. Obama. Lets now take this fight to the FINISH!!

  • Tim says:

    It will be interesting to see what will be the reaction of NATO after this rant by Pakistan. Will Gen. Patraeus be able to keep up the heat or will he and Pres. Obama appease the Pakistanis as usual? – with a billion dollars in weapons, another billion in cash and a hurtful diplomatic jibe to India (which is more friendly towards us than our ‘most trusted ally’ (my foot!) Pakistan?
    If its appeasement – we can expect this war to drag on for another 10 years without victory – that I can bet you!

  • Spooky says:

    Called it.

  • Victor says:

    Once again, the Pakistanis are acting as if their military is capable of conducting operations against a competent adversary, despite all historical evidence to the contrary. Dear Paks: Your continued existence is purely at our discretion. Make your decisions accordingly. Sincerely, The United States.

  • paul says:

    Pakistan is just an enlarged Gaza whose only export is terrorism and an International welfare state!

  • ramgun says:

    Extreme hypocrisy at work here by the US.
    India has, for decades, been crying out at a similar double-game by the Pak army. Infiltrators in Kashmir have routinely disappeared across the border. And the US has been a main force preventing the Indian army from conducting hot pursuit.
    It is a kind of justice that this is now coming to haunt US troops as well – they are getting a taste of their own medicine. Why do they not stop at the Afghan-Pak order and see what Indian army has been going through?
    Hypocrites of first order

  • Jimmy says:

    A delightful insight into the dubious ways of the Pakistan Army ISI….
    Let the NATO bombs reign on them!

  • Ram says:

    @ Ramgun, “And the US has been a main force preventing the Indian army from conducting hot pursuit.”
    I have to respectfully disagree, it is not US but Pakistan’s Nuclear Bombs & our own lack of guts to take on Pakistan. Lets not blame US for our weakness. Sure we can argue that US has been shortsighted – in ignoring Pakistan acquiring nuclear weapon tech from Europe & China & their mollycoddling of Pakistan post 9/11, in spite of evidence of Pakistan’s double dealing.

  • Joe says:

    @ Victor. Pak Army is what runs everything in Pakistan…and that includes its Gov my dear. Don’t underestimate the Army. They can remove the Gov at any point. All Pak finances are in the hands and control of the Army. The Gov has no clue as to how much and what is going where…nor does it have a say-so in where the money can go.
    It’s the Pak Army who is supporting the Taliban. That’s our biggest problem!!! And, yes we must PUSH BIG TIME, if we wish to get anywhere at all in this war.
    @ Paul, please be careful. There are big difference between Pakistan and Gaza. I, however, do agree with you on Pakistan importing terrorists. In fact, they make them, they are their babies. That’s why its Army continues to protect them soooooo well!!!!!!!!!
    Pakistan laughs at us the entire way to the bank! When will we realize this??? When will we do something about their double standards?????

  • Lakshmanan says:

    Pakistan Army’s another name is Taliban. Congratulations to the ISAF. Keep killing. Army is responsible for the downfall of Pakistan as a country. Now, musharraf is hinting that Army may takeover the country again. The mediocre ex-general does not understand if Army takes over, they will have no one to blame for and for this alone they will keep the facade if civilian rule alive.

  • John says:

    The problem for Pakistan is that the U.S has plenty of non-combat tactics it can respond with (to Pakistan’s blocking of supply routes). Primarily, expect Pakistan’s economy to finally crumble. And NATO may have to adjust by using more expensive Central Asian supply routes, but can Pakistan afford to upset its master so much? Are not the Pakistanis only two months away from not being able to pay government salaries? Have not the floods in Pakistan required massive amounts of aid? The U.S is not going to be checkmated by a little move of blocking supply routes. A world of pain is going to hit Pakistan soon, as long as the U.S doesn’t back down and simply explores different supply routes and economic means of targeting Pakistan. The benefit to the U.S is that if the Pakistani’s flinch, the U.S will be able to increase the frequency of open cross border raids into ‘Pakistan’ territory, to be able to use more than simple drone strikes on targets. Worst case scenario is that the Pakistani’s militarily engage the U.S, but this would only be akin to a formality; for in reality, Pakistan is the ***true enemy*** of the U.S, using “non-state parties” (actually, they are simply non-uniformed men trained by the state military apparatus) to constantly attack U.S forces, and making weak excuses for not attacking Al-Qaeda/Taliban bases within Pakistani territory.
    And the U.S army has never truly gotten the chance to attack Pakistan, it has been forced to absorb blow after blow. If the Pakistani’s engage, we shall see some fireworks.

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  • Seriously says:

    @Joe: You’ve nailed it. The problem is the Army. There are probably strategic reasons why our forces don’t directly engage the Pak Army in warfare, but let us not confuse the real problem: The Pak Army & the ISI.


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