Pakistan Blames NATO for Death of 24 Soldiers Saturday

Posted: Nov 26, 2011 10:28 AM

UPDATE: A new report from the Guardian says a senior western official called the actions that resulted in the death of several Pakistani military members 'self-defense.'

As if Pakistan was not already a volatile enough ally, the death of 24 Pakistani soliders due to what the country says was NATO airfire has made the country decide to temporarily close border crossings used by NATO for their work in Afghanistan:

Islamabad retaliated by closing the border crossings used by the international coalition to supply its troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

The incident before dawn Saturday was a major blow to already strained relations between Islamabad and U.S.-led forces fighting in Afghanistan. It will add to perceptions in Pakistan that the American presence in the region is malevolent, and further fuel resentment toward the weak government in Islamabad for its cooperation with Washington.

It comes a little more than a year after a similar but less deadly strike near the Afghan border in which U.S. helicopters accidentally killed two Pakistani whom the pilots mistook for insurgents. Pakistan responded by closing the Torkham border crossing to NATO supplies for 10 days until the U.S. apologized.

On Saturday, Pakistan went further, closing both of the country's border crossings into landlocked Afghanistan. NATO trucks about 30 percent of the non-lethal supplies used by its Afghan-based forces through Pakistan. A short stoppage will have no effect on the war effort, but serves as a reminder of the leverage Pakistan has over the United States from the supply routes running through its territory.

A spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, said it was "highly likely" that close air support called in by Afghan and coalition forces operating in the border area caused Pakistani casualties. NATO is investigating the incident to determine the exact details, he told BBC television.