Pakistan cuts NATO supply line after border firing

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Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for intelligence and special operations at NATO headquarters in Kabul, said coalition forces observed early Thursday what they believed were insurgents firing mortars at a coalition base in Dand Wa Patan district of Paktia, which is next to Upper Kurram.

“A coalition air weapons team called for fire support and engaged the insurgents,” he said. “The air weapons team reported that it did not cross into Pakistani air space and believed the insurgents were located on the Afghan side of the border.”

Col. Dorrian said Pakistani military officials had informed the NATO military coalition that members of their border forces had been struck by coalition aircraft. He said the coalition was reviewing the reports to see if the operation in Paktia was related to those reports.

Hours after the incident, Pakistani authorities were ordered to stop NATO supply trucks from crossing into Afghanistan at the Torkham border post, a major entryway for NATO materials at the edge of the Khyber tribal region, two government officials said.

No reason was given, but earlier this week Pakistan threatened to stop providing protection to NATO convoys if the alliance’s helicopters attacked targets inside Pakistan again.

The other main route into Afghanistan in southeastern Pakistan had received no orders to stop NATO trucks from crossing, which they were doing as normal, said Syed Mohammed Agha, a spokesman for the Pashin Scouts border guards.

Pentagon officials said they were trying to clarify exactly what happened and were talking to the Pakistani government. A Defense Department spokesman said it was too soon to know what impact the border crossing closure would have.

“We expect this matter to be resolved through continued dialogue,” Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said.

Some 80 percent of non-lethal supplies for foreign forces fighting in landlocked Afghanistan are transported over Pakistani soil after being unloaded at docks in Karachi, a port city in the south. While NATO and the United States have alternative supply routes, the Pakistani ones are the cheapest and most convenient.

In June 2008, a U.S. air strike killed 11 Pakistani troops and frayed ties between the two nations. Pakistan said the soldiers died when U.S. aircraft bombed their border post in the Mohmand tribal region. U.S. officials said coalition aircraft dropped bombs during a clash with militants. They expressed regret over the deaths, but said the attack was justified.

Pakistan and the U.S. have a complicated, but vital, relationship, with distrust on both sides.

Polls show many Pakistanis regard the United States as an enemy, and conspiracy theories abound of U.S. troops wanting to attack Pakistan and take over its nuclear weapons. The Pakistani government has to balance its support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan — and its need for billions of dollars in American aid — with maintaining support from its own population.

Riechmann reported from Kabul, Afghanistan. Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Matiullah Achakzai in Chaman, and Pauline Jelinek in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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