NATO attack in Pakistan was 'self-defense,' says US
The Pakistani government strongly condemned a series of manned airstrikes on Pakistani soil, including two NATO attacks that officials say killed about 55 suspected insurgents over the weekend.
Pakistan protested angrily Monday after the US-led international force in Afghanistan confirmed that its helicopters staged cross-border air strikes last week against Pakistan-based Afghan militants "in self defense."Skip to next paragraph
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Islamabad's sharp reaction to the helicopter strikes Saturday came despite a long-standing understanding that allows the US-led International Security Assistance Force to pursue militants who attack Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan's rugged tribal territory.
ISAF usually informs the Pakistani military of any such incursion, but "in this instance, there was no coordination until after, because of the imminent danger to the troops," said a US defense official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "This goes to the inherent right of self-defense."
In a related development, US Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of coalition forces, said that US-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai had received overtures from senior Taliban leaders responding to his initiative to open peace negotiations.
"There are very high-level Taliban leaders who have sought to reach out to the highest levels of the Afghan government, and they have done that," Petraeus told reporters after a tour of a detention facility for suspected insurgents at Bagram, the largest US base in Afghanistan.
Afghan government officials, however, said the Taliban officials aren't senior leaders.
Why Pakistan condemned these attacks
The Pakistani protest appeared to be intended mostly for a domestic audience that deeply opposes US attacks on insurgent strongholds on the Pakistani side of the border as violations of its country's sovereignty.
The ISAF airstrikes Saturday were "a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement. "In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options."
Pakistan lodged an official protest with ISAF, he said.
Basit didn't elaborate on what "corrective" steps Pakistan was seeking or what responses it would consider if those steps weren't taken.
The first cross-border air strike occurred after "a significant number" of insurgents launched an attack from Pakistani territory on a remote Afghan National Army base just inside Afghanistan's eastern Khost province, ISAF said in its statement.
ISAF helicopter gunships monitoring the assault on Combat Outpost Narizah crossed into the North Waziristan area in pursuit of the militants, killing more than 30, ISAF said.
Additional helicopters arrived to assess the situation "and received small arms fire again. The aircraft returned fire, resulting in additional insurgents killed," the statement said. "At no time during the engagement did ground forces cross into Pakistani territory."
ISAF said that the helicopters acted in conformity with the force's "rules of engagement."
Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai, the Khost provincial police chief, said by telephone that between 60 and 70 militants died in the helicopter strikes.