Pakistan closed a vital transit link for NATO supplies for the war in Afghanistan on Thursday in apparent retaliation for an attack by coalition helicopters on a Pakistani security post hours earlier.
Trucks and oil tankers were stopped at the border post of Torkham just north of Peshawar, and it was unclear when the post would reopen, a Pakistani security official said.
A closure of the crossing through which NATO and US troops receive most of their non-lethal equipment is rare, and signaled a downturn in the military relationship between Pakistan and the United States just three months before the Obama administration takes stock of progress in Afghanistan.
A NATO helicopter attacked a border post at Mandati Kandaw, a town close to the capital of Parachinar in the Kurram area of Pakistan’s tribal region, at 5 am on Thursday, the official said. Three paramilitary soldiers of the Frontier Corps were killed, and three others were injured, he said. Another border post at Kharlachi in the Kurram region was struck a few hours later, the official added.
The two posts are about 15 miles apart and border Paktia province in Afghanistan. The incident occurred as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, was in Islamabad for a previously scheduled visit.
The helicopter attacks into Pakistani territory on Thursday came after US military helicopters launched three airstrikes last weekend killing more than 50 people suspected of being members of the Haqqani network of militants.
American officials in Afghanistan tried to temper Pakistani anger about those attacks, saying that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids and had acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan.
American military commanders say they have become increasingly frustrated at the tempo of deadly attacks against US troops in Afghanistan by the Haqqani militants who shelter in Pakistan’s tribal region.