As Pakistan-US Tensions Mount, Tankers Burn and Obama Administration Suggests Coup
Less than twenty-four hours after Pakistan closed the border crossing at Torkham in response to a NATO helicopter attack that killed three Pakistani soldiers, insurgents set fire to 27 NATO fuel tankers that were waiting to enter Afghanistan at this strategic crossing. Rather than striking a conciliatory tone to tamp down growing unrest by Pakistan in response to ongoing US abuse, however, the Obama administration has chosen instead to venture into even more provocative behavior, planting suggestions in Friday’s Washington Post that the US would not be upset if there were a military coup in Pakistan.
Reuters describes the strategic importance of the NATO supply route that crosses into Afghanistan at Torkham:
About three-quarters of all cargo for NATO forces in Afghanistan travels through Pakistan, most of it via two main border crossings: Chaman north of Quetta in Baluchistan and Torkham at the Khyber Pass.
Another third flows into Afghanistan through the northern distribution network across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Sensitive gear like ammunition, weapons and critical equipment is flown in.
The video from etribune (I could only get this video to play by setting resolution to 240) shows the burning tankers and describes a somewhat chaotic situation in the surrounding area as police have instituted a lockdown to conduct a search for the insurgents who attacked the tankers, setting them on fire with rocket launchers.
Given the fragile condition of US-Pakistan relations at the current time, which now has Pakistan quoted in the Reuters article warning of a "total snapping of relations" if the helicopter incursions continue, it is truly stunning that the Obama administration would respond by suddenly making very thinly veiled calls for a military coup through statements planted in Friday’s Washington Post:
U.S. officials pointed to recent signs that Pakistan’s powerful army and opposition parties are positioning themselves to install a new civilian government to replace President Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister in the coming months. In a meeting with them Monday, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani "conveyed the concerns of the people" in no uncertain terms, according to a senior Pakistani security official.
U.S. officials indicated that the administration has begun to contemplate the effects of a change, engineered through Zardari’s resignation as head of his political party, the dissolution of the current coalition government, or a call for new elections under the Pakistani constitution, rather than any overt action by the military. Some suggested that a new, constitutionally-approved government that was more competent and popular, and had strong military backing, might be better positioned to support U.S. policies.
And just to make sure that the Pakistan military knows that this message is intended for them, we get this gem:
"The best outcome here is that the instability will be taken advantage of by the military in ways that aren’t bad, getting rid of lots of cronies" who currently fill government positions, the administration official said.
Appearing on Russia Today, Ahmed Quraishi tells us that Pakistanis have had enough of the one-sided relationship with the US. He also provides perspective on the problems generated by excluding Pashtuns from the political dialogue in Afghanistan and Pakistan:
The Washington Post article also has a startling revelation from NATO, which has now changed its story regarding the helicopter incursion that killed three Pakistani soldiers. It now appears that the attack was "pre-emptive":
A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan said the helicopters were launched after ground troops in Afghanistan’s Paktiya province determined that a cross-border mortar attack by insurgents was imminent. "Operating in self-defense, the aircraft entered into Pakistani airspace, killing several armed individuals," Lt. Col. John Dorrian said.
Why are the US and NATO taking actions and making statements that appear to be deliberately provocative? What purpose is served by damaging relations with Pakistan?
See Scarecrow for more thoughts from him and Rachel Maddow on other aspects of US hypocrisy in dealing with Pakistan.