Two NATO convoys attacked in Pakistan
Talks continuing on supply lines
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Assailants launched two separate attacks on tankers carrying fuel for foreign troops in Afghanistan yesterday, showing the vulnerability of NATO supply lines a day after the Pakistani government shut one down.
The events stand to complicate a difficult war in Afghanistan, especially if the Torkham border crossing along the fabled Khyber Pass remains closed for long. They are a reminder of the leverage Pakistan has over the United States just as Washington seeks the help of its uncomfortable ally at a crucial point in the 9-year-long conflict.
They also highlight the importance of recently opened supply routes into landlocked Afghanistan through central Asian states to its north.
Those routes are safer, but the Pakistani lines from the Arabian seaport of Karachi north to Kabul and Kandahar in Afghanistan are cheaper and carry most of NATO’s non-lethal supplies.
Pakistan shut down the Torkham border crossing, the most important NATO supply into Afghanistan, on Thursday in apparent protest of a NATO helicopter attack that killed three Pakistani soldiers on the frontier. It was the third such incursion into Pakistan in less than a week.
The other NATO supply line through Pakistan remained open — the Chaman crossing in Baluchistan, where it seemed likely the tankers were heading.
A lengthy closure of Torkham would place intense strain on the US-Pakistani relationship and hurt the Afghan war effort. But a long shutdown continued to be seen as unlikely.
Senior US officials acknowledged high tension between the two capitals that crested with the border closure.
On the Pakistani side, the incursions into Pakistan by US forces fighting in Afghanistan provoked an unusually strong government condemnation. On the US side, publication of a video that may show Pakistani military officers summarily executing insurgents threatened to undermine public and congressional support for US aid.
Meanwhile in London, Pakistan’s former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, apologized yesterday for mistakes made during his last term in office as he launched a bid to return to power.
Musharraf told scores of cheering supporters that some of his decisions had negative repercussions for his nation of 175 million. But the leader who stepped down in 2008 amid protests and under the threat of impeachment stopped short of specifying what the mistakes had been.
Critics have accused him of doing little to improve Pakistan’s stagnant economy and not doing enough to clean up the political infighting that has plagued the country.
“I take this opportunity to apologize,’’ the 67-year-old former leader said. “Human beings make mistakes.’’