In a land where secret handshakes and conspiracies run wild - false-flag Blackwater operations for instance - the latest events in Pakistan demonstrate exactly why rumors and propaganda thrive along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Too often conspiracies land close to reality.
Pakistanis have witnessed NATO helicopters raiding Pakistani territory before, so Monday wasn’t exactly a surprise. Each time Washington and Islamabad stage their act, one claiming a private agreement and the other denying to save face. The agreement has more or less served its purpose during America’s drone campaign, upwards of 150 strikes since 2008.
But NATO helicopters aren’t something Pakistanis can get used to on a regular basis.
And so Islamabad vehemently denied Pakistani territory or airspace to US troops, threatening return fire for public consumption. Because of past events many Pakistanis continued to assume that Washington received permission - then two more NATO helicopters “mistook” a Frontier Corps outpost for militants, killing three Pakistani paramilitiries and wounding several more.
Did Pakistan accept NATO raids and, if so, has it voided this agreement? Or does no agreement exist, and was Washington sending the message that it will act freely? The information vacuum is swelling, almost all of it beyond Washington’s control. That’s how rumors are born.
Pakistan indisputably retaliated by closing Torkham, a main supply route into Afghanistan, despite some reports indicating no reason for the decision. Islamabad has threatened numerous times to close supply routes in the event that Pakistan’s border - “the red line” - were crossed, as it provides a strategic, non-lethal alternative to firing at helicopters.
But now the question is whether Islamabad had any influence on the 27 NATO supply trucks flaming on their detour to a second crossing.
It’s entirely possible that the TTP’s intelligence was simply accurate, having raided multiple military installations across Pakistan, rammed into a convoy carrying US Special Forces, and bombed a CIA base in Afghanistan. Tracking convoys is easy work by comparison. Yet the chain of events leaves too many uncertainties in a place like Pakistan.
Naturally such an accusation wouldn’t go over well with Islamabad, despite its own threats to return fire and obstruct America’s war in Afghanistan. However the Pakistani government wouldn’t need to involve itself, just a friendly ISI agent. Tracing any evidence is impossible. And no Pakistani drivers were killed. Sealing the supply routes and guiding the TTP to NATO lorries sends an overpowering message that, even though America could strike dozens of miles into Pakistan, Pakistan could also blockade US troops in Afghanistan at any time.
Isn’t that what Pakistan is going for?
Nor does Islamabad need to repeat its message (although Pakistan closed the Khyber Pass for a second day) if Washington listens, and the White House must be feeling the need to lay low by now. These two states can’t possibly wage open war on each other, not at this moment anyway.
No further raids would suggest that an agreement on cross-border raids was halted once the fallout became unsustainable, or else never existed in the first place. But like any plot, we may only know for sure if the threads continue to unravel.
We do know one other certainty: Washington is officially desperate in Afghanistan and might increasingly defy predictions as a result.