In a move seen as the latest fallout from Wednesday morning’s US attack on South Waziristan, the Pakistani government has ordered that supply lines to NATO troops in Afghanistan be immediately severed for an indefinite period of time.
The move comes as thousands of protesters marched through South Waziristan’s capital of Wana chanting “death to America”. Officials cited repeated attacks which had made it difficult to provide security for transportation across the only border crossing, but Pakistani media cited other sources who said the move came as the government feared retaliation from South Waziristan tribesmen if they didn’t respond to the US attack.
The strike, which was the first confirmed use of US ground forces in Pakistan since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, killed 20 civilians and received widespread condemnation in Pakistan’s government. American officials have suggested that the attack is just the first of many cross-border missions to be expected in the coming months, as the US has expressed growing discontent with Pakistan’s inability to control its long and mountainous border with Afghanistan. The Defense Minister of key NATO ally Germany was also critical of the US attack during his visit to Pakistan, and warned that “Pakistan’s territorial integrity has to be respected”.
With Pakistan’s sole ground link to Afghanistan now closed to them, NATO may be more reliant than ever on Russia for the transportation of non-military supplies to the war-torn country at a time when US-Russian relations are at a post-Cold War low. And while Russia has promised not to block NATO’s overland transport, President Bush’s threat to “punish” Moscow over the recent war with Georgia may put the route in further jeopardy.
compiled by Jason Ditz
Posted September 5, 2008