The relationship between Pakistan and the coalition forces in Afghanistan was further strained this week after coalition forces killed three Pakistani soldiers at a border checkpoint between the two countries (Deb Reichmann & Hussain Afzal, “Pakistan blocks war supply route after NATO cross-border strike,” Globe and Mail, 30 September 2010).
The incident, which occurred on September 30th, took place 650 feet inside Pakistan, according to a Pakistani army statement. A NATO helicopter fired two missiles at the paramilitary soldiers after warning shots were discharged from the checkpoint. The three soldiers were mistakenly thought to be insurgents entering Afghanistan to attack coalition forces. A statement released later acknowledged that the helicopter “appeared to have crossed the border” into Pakistan.
The incident has provoked an angry reaction in Pakistan, with Interior Minister Rehman Malik saying, “We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies.” (Ismail Khan & Jane Perlez, “Pakistan Halts NATO Route to Afghanistan in Response to Attack,” New York Times, 30 September 2010)
In retaliation for the attack, Pakistan blockaded NATO supply trucks passing into Afghanistan at the Torkham border post.
Nearly 80% of the coalition’s non-lethal supplies are transported by truck through Pakistan, and by Thursday afternoon it was reported that more than 150 NATO trucks were stopped on the highway waiting for the blockade to be lifted.
Pakistan has been increasingly vociferous in its complaints about NATO airstrikes inside Pakistan. On Monday, Pakistan called such strikes a violation of the United Nations mandate for coalition forces in Afghanistan, which it said requires operations to stop at the border.