Archive for June 12th, 2008

Following a controversial U.S. air strike on a checkpost in the volatile Mohmand frontier region Wednesday, Pakistan “lodged a diplomatic protest,” accusing U.S.-led forces of launching a “completely unprovoked and cowardly act,” which killed 11 Pakistani soldiers. In response, reported news agencies, U.S. officials said Washington regretted the “reported loss of Pakistani life” but insisted its forces had carried out a “legitimate strike” and “had given Pakistan advanced warning.” To further bolster their defense, the U.S. coalition in Afghanistan released video footage “which it says shows its forces targeting insurgents,” reported the AFP. The Associated Press called such a development an “unusual step” by U.S. forces, adding the video was shot by a surveillance drone circling above the “mountainous battle zone.” The news agency noted,

The grainy, monochrome images show about a half-dozen men firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades from a ridge at coalition troops off-camera in the valley below. According to the voiceover in the video, the ridge is in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, about 200 yards from the Pakistan border and close to the Gorparai checkpoint…The voiceover says the coalition forces were on a reconnaissance mission and returned fire as they tried to break contact and move to a point where a helicopter could pluck them to safety. The video shows the “anti-Afghan militants” moving to a position identified as inside Pakistan and the impact of a bomb which the voiceover says killed two of them. The survivors then fled into a ravine, where three more bombs were dropped, nearly three hours after the clash began. The voiceover said all the militants were killed.

In the video, CNN noted in its coverage, the military stressed that there were no military structures or outposts within the impact area. However, the news agency also cited Pakistani military spokesman, Gen. Athar Abbas, who provided a different account of the incident, noting U.S. forces were called in by Afghan troops after they engaged in a border clash with Taliban forces. The Taliban militants then fired on Afghan forces as they tried to set up a border checkpoint in a disputed area along the border, leading the U.S. to launch an airstrike “on positions where Pakistani frontier corps forces were stationed,” killing 11 Pakistani soldiers.

An updated AFP report cited statements by U.S. National Security adviser Stephen Hadley, who acknowledged the contradictory stories, telling reporters, “We’re still trying to get to the bottom of what happened. And reports, quite frankly, even from sources within the United States government, are conflicting at this point.” The AP quoted him adding, “Should it be true, obviously we would be very saddened by that loss.”

BBC News’ Kim Ghattas noted this incident and the subsequent developments come “at a time of tension between Pakistan and the US over how to deal with militants in border areas.” Another BBC correspondent, Barbara Plett, “There is increasing anger in Pakistan at US strikes on its territory which have killed more than 50 people this year.” This incident, regardless of what actually happened, exemplifies the overall lack of distrust towards the U.S. in Pakistan. The statements released by the Pakistani military, which media outlets called “unusually harsh,” further emphasizes that notion. Below, is the CNN report on the developments [Above image from BBC]:

UPDATE [1400 EST]: The Associated Press cited the chief minister of the NWFP, Haider Khan Hoti, who said Pakistan “should rethink their relations” with the United States, calling Wednesday’s airstrike an act of “absolute naked aggression.”

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