Before the US occupation forces withdraw from Afghanistan, as they are due to in 2014, they must face and resolve two issues first. They are the route of the withdrawal, and the relationship between Afghanistan and its neighbour Pakistan. The first issue arose with the arrival of 12 trucks carrying US military equipment at the Torkham border checkpost, and their moving onward to Karachi after receiving Customs clearance. Even after the withdrawal is complete (when all personnel have gone home), this movement of equipment and stores will continue, and the route from Torkham to Karachi, all the way down the G.T. Road, and thus along the length of Pakistan. Apart from any internal logistic problems, one of the most obvious consequences will be the increased wear and tear on what is probably the country’s main road. The government should not permit any further movement unless it is first agreed to pay for this wear and tear, which will be one of the many hidden costs of the war on terror that Pakistan will have to bear. Already, Pakistan has borne the cost of the wear and caused by moving this equipment to Afghanistan in the first place.

At the same time, the Afghan government continues to make threatening noises, which have now come from the chief of the Afghan border police at Nangarhar. On Friday, he asked the Karzai government to give him more tanks, arms and men so that he could ‘push Pakistan back beyond the Durand Line’. Afghanistan should know well that Pakistan is well able to give a befitting reply, and it should be made clear to the Afghan authorities that they will be seriously mistaken, as well as badly exposed, if propaganda against Pakistan is to continue in the same vein.

It remains to be seen how much Pakistan’s newly elected government will have in forming an independent foreign policy and with how much strictness it will be able to handle Afghanistan’s frequent tirades against Pakistan. However, occupying forces long a force for instability, are finally on their way out. This will mean a great deal of pressure on the Pakistani infrastructure, as material is returned to the coast via Pakistan’s highways from Afghanistan. In view of the expected wear and tear and expense that will be incurred in trying to repair the same, the new Pakistani government should look into the imposition of a road tax for NATO trucks. This charge is only a fair one and is entirely well deserved by the Pakistani state for providing this facility.