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NATO Airstrike Causes Outrage in Pakistan

Posted on the 28 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

NATO airstrike causes outrage in Pakistan, how will this affect the war in Afghanistan and the US-Pakistan partnership?

US soldiers in Afghanistan. Photo credit: AfghanistanMatters,

Relations between the US and Pakistan are in crisis following a NATO airstrike that killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers. American helicopters and fighter jets hit two military posts on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to The Guardian, a spokesman for the Pakistan military described the airstrike as an “unprovoked attack”; NATO forces in Afghanistan are preparing for the possibility of reprisals from Pakistan-backed insurgents.

US-Pakistan relations had already deteriorated following the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US troops near Islamabad. With NATO expressing regret but stopping short of a full apology, is there any way back for the two countries?

No more talking. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told CNN that there would be “no more business as usual” between the US and Pakistan following the airstrike. Pakistan has closed supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan. According to The Pakistan Observer, there is outrage at all levels throughout the country over the incident. However, Pakistan’s PM also told CNN that the country still wants to “maintain its relationship with the US” – but only if there is “mutual respect”.

“Senior U.S. civilian and military officials have been in touch with their Pakistani counterparts from Islamabad, Kabul and Washington to express our condolences, our desire to work together to determine what took place, and our commitment to the U.S.-Pakistan partnership,” said a White House spokesman, according to Reuters.

Worse than Afghanistan. “This latest outrage is another fateful signpost on the road to a potential security and geostrategic disaster that may ultimately make Afghanistan look like a sideshow,” said Simon Tisdall on The Guardian’s Comment is Free, insisting that the US needs to take Pakistan more seriously. Tisdall argued that anti-American feeling is on the way to being “institutionalised at the higher levels of government” in Pakistan; he suggested that if the country’s Western allies continue to treat Pakistan with a lack of respect, relations will never improve.

Problem of war. “The rift is one result of the United States’ two-pronged strategy in Afghanistan, which relies on both negotiating and fighting to end the war,” wrote Steve Lee Myers in The New York Times, arguing that military actions such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden threaten to undermine US diplomatic gains.

No trust. “Decades of mistrust and duplicity on both sides are coming to the surface,” wrote Bruce Riedel in The Daily Beast, arguing that relations between the US and Pakistan have been on a “downward slide” for years. According to Riedel, the major issue now is that America and Pakistan are essentially on different sides in the war in Afghanistan: “NATO supports the Karzai government. Pakistan’s Army (not its civilian government) backs the Afghan Taliban.” Riedel said that the US must support Pakistan’s “weak” government in order to contain the power of the military.

Relations will stabilise. “The relationship between the US and Pakistan is in a constant state of crisis… But that is roughly what passes for normal in this part of the world: this is not the end,” said Rob Crilly in a Daily Telegraph blog. Crilly argued that the two countries need each other too much to allow a permanent rift: the US is dependent on Pakistan supply routes to Afghanistan, while the Pakistani government is reliant on “American dollars”.

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