Pakistan has protested against another incursion of NATO helicopters into its airspace, in which three Pakistani soldiers were killed. Apparently in retaliation, Pakistan blocked NATO supplies from reaching Afghanistan.
NATO helicopters have crossed into Pakistani airspace several times this week
There have already been several border crossings by NATO from Afghanistan into Pakistan this week.
They come at a time when there is heightened alarm over reports that there are plans to launch terrorist attacks in Europe that have been allegedly plotted in Pakistan's tribal areas. However, the former US ambassador to Pakistan William Milam does not think there is a connection.
"I would think it is more related to Afghanistan at the moment. Those other reports of the terrorist strikes planned by al Qaeda would be probably the subject of, shall we say, the target of drone strikes if we can find the concentrations of people that we believe might be involved. This has got to be hot pursuit over the border because we are chasing some of the Afghan Taliban, probably part of the Haqqani group, back and forth," he said.
NATO said its aircraft were shot at from the ground and fired back "in self-defense". Three members of Pakistan's Frontier Corps died, said Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who was furious.
"This will not end with condemnation, this will go much further because we will simply not tolerate any kind of attack on our soldiers or Frontier Corps or any other border forces. We have to know whether we are allies or enemies."
A Pakistan army soldier stands alert as he monitors the Afghan-Pakistan border
Pakistan has closed the border for supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan in an apparent retaliatory measure. However, William Milam hopes the situation between the two allies will not escalate.
"I actually think that the Pakistani military has seen that a lot of what we want to do and a lot of what we are asking them to do is in their interest. But the civilian government - the military, too, for that matter - is dealing with a public opinion which is violently anti-American, to which they have to pay some attention. And so they will have to respond to incidents like border incursions, even in the air, with some sort of rhetoric."
Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Federal Interior Minister
Government has to be clear with the people
Well-known Pakistani security analyst Talat Masood says that Islamabad has to be clearer. "Our government and our army should tell the people whether there really is an agreement with the Americans and they are entering our country on that basis, or whether they are doing it without any authorization. It is also completely obvious that the US and NATO are now extending their war into Pakistan. This is something extremely dangerous and could have very severe consequences for Pakistan."
William Milam agrees that the US needs to handle this situation carefully. He says that as the growing number of drone strikes into Pakistan have been tacitly accepted by Islamabad, Washington should avoid unnecessarily provoking its allies by allowing military personnel to cross Afghanistan's borders.
Author: Thomas Baerthlein
Editor: Anne Thomas