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Pakistan reopens key border crossing into Afghanistan

| Monday, Oct. 11, 2010

Los Angeles Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan yesterday reopened a border crossing into Afghanistan used by trucks and tankers that supply NATO troops, ending an 11-day blockade imposed after a NATO helicopter cross-border incursion that killed two Pakistani soldiers.

The first of hundreds of trucks and tankers stranded at the Torkham checkpoint on the Khyber Pass since Sept. 30 began moving across the border early yesterday afternoon. The border reopening should ease the bottleneck created by the blockade, which was followed by a series of militant attacks on parked NATO oil tankers and trucks across Pakistan.

More than 150 NATO trucks were set on fire or otherwise damaged in those attacks. At least six people were killed.

Although U.S. officials said the border reopening was welcome, relations between Islamabad and Washington remain tense. The deaths of the two Pakistani border soldiers in a NATO helicopter attack Sept. 30 was seen in Pakistan as a violation of the country's sovereignty and came at a time when the United States had significantly increased its drone-missile attacks on Taliban and al-Qaida militants hiding out in Pakistan's largely lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border.

In September, the United States carried out 22 drone-missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas, most of them directed at the Afghan Taliban wing known as the Haqqani network in the North Waziristan region. Pakistan has balked at moving against Haqqani network fighters, a reluctance that has exasperated officials in Washington because Haqqani fighters use North Waziristan as a base for launching attacks on U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials decided Saturday to reopen the Torkham crossing. The decision came four days after the U.S. government and NATO formally apologized for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers, saying the helicopter crews mistook the men for insurgents whom they had been pursuing across the Afghan-Pakistani border.

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