By Garibov Konstantin
Pakistan will deploy anti-aircraft weapons on the border with Afghanistan to curb NATO air raids. Breaking the news on Friday, a Pakistani command spokesman, General Ashfaq Nadeem, said that Islamabad would no longer tolerate the heavy presence of CIA agents in Pakistan.
The move came in retaliation for the late November NATO air strike on a Pakistani army post. More than 20 Pakistani servicemen were killed in what the Pakistani command says was a preplanned attack. General Nadeem called the Untied States a pseudo ally capable of carrying out more strikes.
Washington apologized for the incident. President Barack Obama promised a thorough investigation into all circumstances of the erroneous strike.
Analyst Vladimir Moskalenko of the Institute of the Orient at the Russian Academy of Sciences thinks that the inquiry could defuse tension between Pakistan and NATO.
“Many are inclined to think that this was a provocation. But who was behind it? It’s hard to figure out because no one seems to have gained from it. An alliance with the United States is of great importance to Pakistan, given its difficult economic situation that could grow even worse if it loses U.S. aid. For Washington, Pakistan is an important strategic ally in South Asia. The terms of a massive U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will depend much on Islamabad’s position. It’s a real challenge for Barack Obama.”
The bloody raid prompted Pakistan to cut one of the two supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan, which may create serious problems for NATO. Another supply route lies through Russia, but it is only for non-military cargo. The alliance has not yet officially requested Moscow to expand NATO cargo transit through Russian territory. On Thursday, a rocket attack by militants targeting a NATO supply convoy in southwestern Pakistan destroyed more than 30 NATO fuel tankers and food trucks.
The sudden illness of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who left for Dubai this week to undergo treatment for heart problems, has sparked rumors about a military putsch. Mr. Zardari’s mysterious heart failure had been preceded by his emergency meeting with foreign ambassadors to Pakistan. But the U.S. State Department spokesman Marc Toner denied any link between the worsening health of the Pakistani president and his possible resignation. Observers inside Pakistan do not rule out Mr. Zardari’s return, only perhaps not as president.