Pakistan makes its case in Washington: deadly NATO attack was no mistake
Amid an accelerating downward spiral in US-Pakistan relations, a presentation at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington on the deadly NATO attack served as a portrait of mistrust.
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Pakistan’s military had recently undertaken an anti-militant operation in the border area of Mohmand province where the two attacked outposts were located, but the senior officials acknowledged that parts of the Afghanistan side of the border were “infested” with what they called “terrorists.”Skip to next paragraph
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“We cleansed this area of all terrorist presence,” one senior official said, “As of September [there was] no terrorist presence in Mohmand which warrants such an operation” by NATO.
The officials also claimed a “coordination of measures over the last 10 years to avoid incidents of this nature,” but the details provided in the presentation served instead to illustrate the mistrust that exists between the NATO and Pakistani sides.
NATO and the Afghan and Pakistani militaries jointly man a number of Border Coordination Centers (BCCs) to enhance cooperation on border operations. Despite that, the Pakistanis say they had almost no advance warning of the Nov. 26 operation.
“No information was shared by [NATO] about an impending operation,” a Pakistani military official said. When the Pakistani officer at one BCC was provided coordinates of the attack’s location some 10 to 15 minutes before it commenced, they indicated an area six to eight miles north of where the attack actually took place.
According to the Pakistanis, strafing commenced shortly after midnight involving the first outpost, “Volcano.” Pakistani soldiers responded with 12.7 mm anti-aircraft guns. With that, the second outpost, “Boulder,” came under attack.
The Pakistanis say they received confirmation from NATO at 1:05 that the helicopters had been pulled back. But according to the Pakistanis, firing continued intermittently until sometime after 2:15, or about an hour and a quarter after NATO said its helicopters were called back.
The senior officials said the 10-15 minutes notice given the Pakistani official before firing commenced was not enough time. NATO has suggested its forces were in “hot pursuit” of militants fleeing toward the border and could not wait.
But the scenario also raises questions about the degree of trust between NATO and Pakistani officials. Some US and NATO military officials have raised concerns in the past that in some cases the Pakistani military has shared information with militants about NATO operations and positions.
The senior Pakistani officials refused to speculate about why NATO officials might have been reluctant to share information about the Nov. 26 operation. One said only that the point of years of “cooperation” was to enhance trust in order to defeat a common enemy.
“We have been working hand and glove with our partners and friends to prevent this sort of thing from happening,” he said.
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