US ambassador in Islamabad says helicopter pilots mistook Pakistani soldiers for Taliban fighters they were pursuing.
|About 70 fuel tankers were torched by the Taliban on Wednesday [AFP]|
Pakistan has decided not to reopen a key border crossing used by Nato for supplies to Afghanistan, despite a US apology for a helicopter attack that killed two Pakistani soldiers.
Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, said on Thursday that authorities were still evaluating the situation and a decision to reopen the Torkham crossing will be taken “in due course.”
Hundreds of lorries have been stranded near the border or stuck in traffic on the way to the one route into Afghanistan from the south that has remained open.
Taliban fighters have taken advantage of the impasse to launch attacks against the vehicles. A driver was killed and about 70 fuel tankers were set on fire in attacks on Wednesday.
The crossing was closed to Nato convoys a week ago after a Nato helicopter entered Pakistani territory and killed the two border guards.
Both the US and Nato have apologised for the attack, saying the American helicopters mistook Pakistani soldiers for insurgents they were pursuing.
US and Pakistani officials had predicted the border crossing would be reopened in a matter of days, and that the apology would provide Pakistan with a face-saving way to back down.
But even if the border is reopened, underlying tensions will remain in the US-Pakistan relationship, especially over Pakistan’s unwillingness to go after Afghan Taliban fighters on its territory.
“The Americans have permeated almost every department of Pakistan and it’s not possible for the ISI to be cheating them”
A leaked report from the US state department has criticised Pakistan’s military and the president for failing to confront the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
The report also claimed that agents of the Pakistani intelligence agency (ISI) are actively encouraging the Taliban to attack Nato troops.
But Hamid Gul, the former ISI chief, told Al Jazeera that those allegations were baseless.
“This it is not possible because the Americans have permeated almost every department of Pakistan and it’s not possible for the ISI to be cheating them,” he said. “This is absolutely ridiculous.”
The US-Pakistani relationship is also strained by a dramatic increase in the number of CIA drone raids in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
Pakistan said on Thursday that there was “no justification nor understanding” for US drone strikes on its soil.
“We believe that they are counter-productive and also a violation of our sovereignty,” foreign ministry spokesman Basit told reporters. “We hope that the US will revisit its policy.”
Basit said that the drone war was “not serving the larger strategic interests, especially in the context of our efforts to win hearts and minds, which is part and parcel of our strategy against militants and terrorists.”
The Pakistani Taliban has vowed more attacks to avenge the drone attacks.
“We will further intensify attacks with the intensification of US drone strikes on us,” Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban told the news agency AFP.
Pakistani authorities say 26 attacks since September 3 have killed 149 people.
The US does not publicly acknowledge the drone strikes in Pakistan, but US officials have said privately that they have killed several senior Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders.