Everything on the line

A week since the closure of the Torkham border crossing for NATO supplies, the have been having a field day with the idling trucks stuck in Pakistan. And on Wednesday the militants upped the ante by attacking 22 NATO oil tankers on the outskirts of Quetta. What makes this attack different is that these trucks were on their way to Afghanistan via Chaman, the other border crossing that has remained open. Meantime another convoy was attacked on the GT Road near Nowshera where some 35 tankers were set ablaze. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility, bringing the total number of trucks torched to well over 100 in this one week alone.With well over 50 percent of NATO supplies reaching troops in Afghanistan from Pakistan, the closure of the Torkham crossing has sent a clear signal to Washington that Pakistan will not tolerate more ‘hot pursuit’ attacks on its territory. The US ambassador, Anne Patterson has already issued a formal apology “on behalf of the American people” for the death of the three Pakistani soldiers, and both General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen have expressed regret through a statement and a letter to General Kayani respectively. However, it would be foolish to presume that we have pushed the US into a corner. There are alternate routes NATO can use for its supplies if push comes to shove. The US needs a cooperative ally, one that will work in coordination with NATO forces. It does not need an ally that provides safe havens to the very forces it is battling in Afghanistan. According to a White House assessment report, US officials have stated that the Pakistani military is unwilling to pursue “military engagements” that put it in direct conflict with the Afghan Taliban. This makes sense considering that it is being alleged that the establishment is either turning a blind eye to the continuous attacks on NATO convoys or something even worse. If such accusations are to be believed, some serious questions are raised about the military’s policy in this war. The TTP has boasted responsibility for the attacks and, therefore, it cannot be ignored that they are in direct connivance with the Afghan Taliban as no other outfit benefits more from these attacks than militants fighting US troops in Afghanistan.

We may have extracted an apology from the US but our establishment should not overplay its hand. The war on terror has cost the American people and two successive US governments money, lives, and popularity. A closed crossing is not going to deter the US from its goal to wipe out the militants no matter where they reside. Our obsession with Afghanistan should not cloud the judgement of those calling the shots. The war on terror is not just continuing; it is escalating and widening into Pakistan. Drone attacks have increased, terror threat levels in the west have been heightened because of apprehensions concerning western citizens receiving terrorist training in FATA, and militant attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have been stepped up. In such an atmosphere, if Pakistan does not comply with US demands to target the militants, particularly in North Waziristan, the war on terror could escalate into Pakistan in a dramatic way. It is imperative that the establishment stop putting the future of Pakistan at stake for the dubious goal of strategic depth in ghanistan – Dailytimes