The NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani Soldiers Saturday is forcing the U.S. to brace for a spate of terrorist attacks, re-route its supply lines and engage in a public shouting match with Pakistan while it simultaneously holds private talks to salvage the shattered relationship. It remains unclear what happened during the assault but Pakistani officials say a U.S.-Afghan contingent attacked one of its border checkposts unprovoked while U.S. and Afghan officials say gunfire from the direction of the checkpost precipitated the attack. Regardless, tangible consequences of the incident have already unfurled beyond the 15-day eviction notice given to U.S. troops to leave an important air base in Pakistan and the shuttering of the country's borders.
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Bracing for terrorist attacks A U.S. military official tells The Daily Beast's Eli Lake that the U.S. military fears that Pakistan may now give terrorists inside the country carte blanche to carry out attacks on U.S. supply lines. "For now, as the trucks and convoys pile up at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the U.S. military is fearing a new round of attacks on its supply routes from the Haqqani network." The official says “We are worried that the S Directorate of the ISI will be told, ‘OK boys game on.’ And then we will see the Haqqani network and other assorted groups step up their attacks."
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Re-routing supply routes According to a Monday report in Bloomberg, U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan get 35 percent of "non-lethal" supplies via Pakistan supply routes. Alternatives are being investigated in Russia and Central Asia, according to U.S. General William Fraser.
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The he said, she said Publicly, military officials on both sides of the incident are disputing the other side's story. This morning, the Pakistani Army reiterated that the attack was unprovoked and added that the attack was sustained lasting almost two hours as Pakistani commanders begged U.S. forces to stop. According to the Associated Press, Pakistan's Maj. Gen Athar Abbas said his commanders "had contacted NATO counterparts while it was going on, asking 'they get this fire to cease, but somehow it continued.'" U.S. officials have repeated that the attack was in response to gunfire in the direction of the checkpost but they are open to the idea of assault coming from someone besides the Pakistani military.
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Secret meetings Meanwhile, National Journal's Marc Ambinder says the airstrike won't end the tenuous U.S.-Pakistani relationship but will call for an intense round of private meetings. "This incident will not end the relationship. Pakistan’s Army, which runs the country, needs its money, and at the same time as it publicly creates a vision of the U.S. as an enemy, relishes the direct contact it has with leaders of the world’s most powerful country," he writes. Still, what it calls for is "humility from NATO, a series of hurried and contentious private meetings, and a return to the cold war that, just barely, justifies the interest each side has in maintaining ties to the another."
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