Border Clash: NATO Helicopters Attack Pakistani Border Troops

May 18th, 2011 - by admin & The Daily Times & ABC News – 2011-05-18 02:38:10

Border Clash: NATO Helicopters Attack Pakistani Border Troops

Border Clash: NATO Helicopters Attack Pakistani Border Troops
US-Pakistan Tensions Soar as US Copters Enter North Waziristan

Jason Ditz /

(May 17, 2011) — The ever-rising tensions between the US and Pakistan have taken another major jump today, after two NATO helicopters, at least one of which was confirmed to be a US military helicopter, crossed into the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan from Afghanistan.

The incursion was brief but sparked an exchange of fire with Pakistani border soldiers. The US claimed that the helicopters were attacked while still inside Afghanistan’s Khost Province, while Pakistani officials say that the shooting began after they crossed into Waziristan. The exchange of fire left two Pakistani soldiers wounded.

It is not the first time that the border has seen incursions. US helicopters launched a raid in September which killed more than 60 tribesmen who they said fled across the border from Afghanistan. The incident sparked a warning from the Pakistani government.

The real tension, however, stems from the raid by US helicopters into Abbottabad earlier this month, which killed Osama bin Laden. The raid came without informing the Pakistani government prior to the attack, and the White House has since claimed that it “reserves the right” to launch similar unilateral raids into Pakistani territory whenever President Obama feels it is appropriate to the do so.

The prospect of such raids becoming normal fueled a major upswell of anti-US sentiment within Pakistan, and demands from both opposition and ruling politicians for the military to prevent similar incursions. Since then Pakistan’s military has kept a close eye on the border for any potential US raids.

The US has been largely silent over the new incident, but it seems the relationship with Pakistan has moved into uncharted territory, and the US calls for Pakistan to escalate its military presence along the border is now working against them, with those troops now prepared to resist potential US invasions.

NATO Choppers Violate Pakistan Airspace
The Daily Times

* Two Pakistani soldiers injured as NATO helicopters open fire at Admi Kot post in North Waziristan

* Pakistan Army lodges ‘strong protest’

MIRANSHAH/KABUL (May 18, 2011) — Two NATO helicopters violated Pakistan’s airspace at Admi Kot post in North Waziristan Agency in early hours of Tuesday morning.

The troops stationed at the post fired at the intruding helicopters and, as a result of exchange of fire, two of Pakistan Army soldiers received injuries.

The attack triggered a “strong protest” from Islamabad as tensions with the US simmered after Osama bin Laden’s death.

The two choppers opened fire on an army checkpoint in a restive tribal region in Pakistan’s northwest after they were shot at, a Western military official in Kabul said.

The attack occurred just one day after US Senator John Kerry attempted to soothe a row with Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership about the May 2 raid that killed bin Laden.

Tuesday’s helicopter attack took place in Wacha Bibi, 50 kilometres west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan’s tribal district, officials said.

Washington considers the tribal belt a hotbed of al Qaeda, where Taliban and other militants plot attacks on American troops, including those in the US-led international force based in Afghanistan, and on Western targets.

“Pakistan Army has lodged a strong protest and demanded a flag meeting” with NATO officials in Afghanistan, a statement issued in Islamabad said.

“Two NATO helicopters violated Pakistan’s airspace today at Admi Kot Post, North Waziristan, in the early hours of the morning.”

“The troops at the post fired upon the helicopters and, as a result of exchange of fire, two of our soldiers received injuries,” the statement said.

The cross-border incident comes as relations between Islamabad and Washington remain tense following the commando raid that killed bin Laden, an attack that embarrassed and angered the Pakistani military and leadership. The western military official in Kabul, who requested anonymity, told AFP that the two helicopters were in Afghanistan “in support of a forward operating base which was receiving fire from across the border of Pakistan.”

“Upon arrival at the scene, one of the helicopters received fire from across the border but didn’t immediately return fire. Upon receiving fire a second time, the helicopter returned fire,” he added.

A spokesman for the international military alliance in Afghanistan said ISAF “had reports of a possible incident.”

“We are looking into it,” Lieutenant Colonel John L Dorrian said.

US Helicopter, Pakistani Military Exchange Fire at Border
Martha Raddatz, Nick Schifrin and Lee Ferran / ABC News

(May 17, 2011) — A US helicopter exchanged fire with Pakistani troops near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan today, resulting in injuries for two Pakistani soldiers, US and Pakistani officials said.

Accounts differ as to what exactly prompted the firefight, but the incident may further strain already fragile relations between the US and Pakistan following the American unilateral military raid deep in Pakistani territory that killed Osama bin Laden May 1.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force said US helicopters were in Afghanistan near Forward Operating Base Tillman when they responded to incoming direct and indirect fire from over the border in Pakistan, presumably from militants. The helicopters initially did not return fire, but when a second round of incoming fire began, they did fire in response.

The Pakistani military, however, said that two NATO helicopters caused the incident by violating Pakistani airspace before being fired upon by Pakistani troops.

“We know for sure the [Apache] helicopter was fired upon — we got rounds inside the helicopter,” said Gen. John Campbell, East region commander for the ISAF. “The helicopter returned fire and we are working through just exactly what happened… If [American soldiers] are taking effective fire, then by all means they have to take all measures to safeguard themselves and the other people around there.”

Pressure on Pakistan
The ISAF said it is investigating the incident further, but one senior US official said it is “likely” the helicopter accidentally did pass into Pakistan. Campbell told ABC News that insurgents sometimes fire on NATO troops from near Pakistani outposts in hopes of drawing US return fire.

Though the Pakistani military lodged a “strong protest” over the incident, one Pakistani military official said the army made it clear it was not overly concerned when it requested the meeting at the colonel or brigadier general level. Had the incident been fatal or had the Pakistani military wanted to object more strongly, it would have made the request to meet at a higher level or raised stronger complaints at a diplomatic level, he said.

US Commander:
Lack of Communication With Pakistan Dangerous

Campbell said that communication between the American and Pakistani militaries had suffered in the backlash following the bin Laden operation, which has increased chances of such incidents on the border.

“You just have to be talking back and forth … so if something comes from Pakistan and somebody has fired, we can pull up our Pakistani counterparts and say, ‘Hey, we are getting fire from here. We need you guys to go take care of that,'” he said. “So it’s very important to try to work that relationship.”

Gen. David Rodriguez, the ISAF commander in Afghanistan, said it is “very tense along the border” and that American troops are “trying to be as careful as we can, as have the Pakistanis.”

The US raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed bin Laden earlier this month, which was apparently carried out without the full knowledge of Pakistani officials, provoked an angry backlash from the Pakistani public and the Pakistani government. Last week the Pakistani parliament passed a resolution that “condemned the US unilateral action in Abbottabad, which constitutes a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, recently returned from a trip to Pakistan in which he held meetings with several senior Pakistani government and military officials meant to help the two countries “push the reset button.”

Back in Washington, DC, today, Kerry chaired a lengthy meeting of the Committee on Foreign Relations dedicated to US-Pakistan relations in which several committee members expressed their frustration in dealings with Pakistan.

Retired Gen. James Jones, Jr., former National Security Advisor to the White House, appeared before the committee and said America could improve relations in the aftermath of the bin Laden raid, despite the struggle.

“It is a difficult moment,” he said, “but it is a moment of opportunity if cooler heads prevail.”

In perhaps the first sign of trust-building to come out of Kerry’s visit, Pakistan agreed Monday to return the pieces of a secret US helicopter abandoned in the Navy SEAL bin Laden operation.

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