Pakistan: 26 troops dead in NATO helicopter attack
Pakistan on Saturday accused NATO helicopters of firing on two army checkpoints in the country’s northwest and killing 26 soldiers, then retaliated by closing the border crossings used by the coalition to supply its troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
The incident Friday night 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 to resentment toward the weak government in Islamabad for its cooperation with Washington.
It comes a little over a year after a similar but less deadly strike, in which U.S. helicopters accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border, 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 two 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 it is a reminder of the leverage Pakistan has over the United States from the supply routes running through its territory.