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NATO strike widened US-Pak rift: NYT

November 28, 2011 14:39 IST

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops has widened the US-Pak rift, according to a leading American daily, which said the Obama  administration's regret and Islamabad's anger over the strike reflects a "deepening distrust" that gets harder to repair with each new confrontation.

"The NATO air attack... reflected a fundamental truth about American-Pakistani relations when it comes to securing the unruly border with Afghanistan: the tactics of war can easily undercut the broader strategy that leaders of both countries say they share," an analytical piece in The New York Times said.

The "murky" details of the Saturday airstrike have complicated matters even more, it said. While Pakistani officials say the attack on their border posts was unprovoked, Afghan officials assert the airstrikes were called in after Afghan and US commandos came under fire from Pakistani territory.

"The reaction inside Pakistan nonetheless followed a now-familiar pattern of anger and tit-for-tat retaliation. So did the American response of regret laced with frustration and suspicion. Each side's actions reflected a deepening distrust that gets harder to repair with each clash," the report said.

Following the attack, Pakistan closed two main NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, while NATO promised to probe the air strike. The report said it remains to be seen till how long the Pakistanis will keep the supply routes closed, and whether the investigation would help assuage the anger in Pakistan, because the damage "has been done."

"On one level, it does not matter whether the strikes are justified as self-defence or acknowledged as a catastrophic error, though if an investigation shows that the Pakistani soldiers were complicit in attacking the NATO-Afghanistan forces across the border, the tensions could worsen further.

"The damage to the American strategy has been done, and the question is how long it will take for officials from both countries to resume cooperation where it is in their interest to do so," it said.

The growing rift is one result of the United States' "two-pronged" strategy in Afghanistan, which relies on both negotiating and fighting to end the war.

While the State Department and the White House believe that only a negotiated political solution will end the war, American military and intelligence commanders believe that they must maximise pressure on the Taliban before American troops return home in 2014, the report said.

In recent months American forces have also complained that they have taken mortar and rocket fire from positions in Pakistani territory.

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