NATO Messes With Pakistan

More

pakistan soldiers.jpgSource: Reuters

As my Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg and his co-author Marc Ambinder outlined in last month's Atlantic cover story, Pakistan can be the ally from hell.  But this week, the tables are turned -- and from the perspective of ferociously independent, nationalistic Pakistan citizens, the United States and NATO appear to be approximating the behavior of enemies.

A two hour siege on a site inside Pakistan by NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.  The siege continued even after alleged appeals by Pakistan military command staff to NATO commanders to stop the assault.  Various Afghan intelligence sources are reporting that a joint US-Afghan patrol was fired upon by heavy Pakistan-based artillery -- and thus the NATO air attack was against the source of that attack.  Turned out the site targeted involved two Pakistan Army-manned check points.

Rather than defending its right of self defense, NATO seems to be cowering and has called the attack "tragic and unintended."

If the Pakistanis initiated the firefight, then the US and NATO should not run from this.  If indeed this was a tragic, unintended, poorly managed assault on the Pakistan military, then those of us concerned with greater escalation of a costly war in the Af/Pak region should be furious with NATO and its commanders.

Going to war with Pakistan is not an option -- though it sometimes feels that both the US and Pakistan are already in some form of half way, informal war -- taking a love-hate relationship to a higher game level.

If the NATO strike was a mistake, then it just raised the costs enormously across the board in what the US and its allies will have to give the Pakistanis to 'maintain' a relationship.  If it was not a mistake, then NATO is worsening the problem by calling it a tragic error.

And no matter which is true, it's clear that the situation is so fragile that just about any other party can hijack conditions and send the US-Pakistan relationship in directions that can't be controlled.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

What makes a story great? The storytellers behind House of CardsThis American LifeThe Moth, and more reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

Just In