Backed-up NATO Vehicles Stood in Mute Testimony to Futility of Afghanistan War

Torkham NATO ConvoyAfter a 10-day blockade, the Torkham border crossing to Afghanistan in the Khyber Pass was reopened by Pakistan. It had, of course, been closed after a U.S. helicopter gunship mistakenly killed three Pakistani troops in a raid for which U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson apologized and called a “tragic accident.”

Washington must have breathed a sigh of relief not only because it can resume its operation, but because the situation had become embarrassing. At IPS News Gareth Porter had painted this picture on Friday: “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Friday that 6,500 NATO vehicles are backed up along the entire 1,500 km route from the port of Karachi to the Khyber Pass.”

The convoys rolling again is, in fact, an oopportunity missed. Porter also noted that the halt in NATO convoys had momentarily “brought an end to the unilateral attacks in Pakistan pushed by Gen. David Petraeus and forced Washington to make a new accommodation.” Furthermore, it might have made it “impossible for Petraeus to make the argument in the future that the United States can succeed in Afghanistan, given the refusal of Pakistan to budge on the issue.” [Emphasis added.]

You’ve heard the vaguely Eastern expression “Within crisis lies opportunity.” In this case, within chagrin would have lied opportunity. In its refusal to uncategorically go after insurgents within its borders (which it engages less as if they were a threat than a chance to hone the fighting skills of both its army and the Taliban), Pakistan might seem to be an endless source of headeaches to Washington.

But, if, along with refusing to commit itself wholeheartedly to eliminating the Palistani Taliban, Pakistan had kept the border closed, the case could have been made that Pakistan not only seeks no help with its internal security but in shoring up Afghanistan as a bulwark against India. The United States could then have begun in earnest to back away from the crime scene that has become Afghanistan.