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Terrorism & Security

NATO strike on Pakistan military 'couldn't come at a worse time'

US officials are scrambling to avoid a further breakdown in US-Pakistan relations after a mistaken NATO strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

By Staff writer / November 27, 2011

Pakistani protesters shout slogans against America and NATO in Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday. Pakistan on Saturday accused NATO helicopters and fighter jets of firing on two army checkpoints in the country's northwest and killing 24 soldiers. Banner reads 'Terrorist NATO and America quit our country.'

K.M.Chaudary/AP

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As the fallout from a mistaken NATO attack on a Pakistani border outpost on Saturday continues, Pakistan has ordered the US to clear out an airbase it used for drone attacks on targets in Afghanistan.

The US is scrambling to avoid a further scuppering of US-Pakistan ties, which have already deteriorated tremendously in the months since the unilateral US raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan hideout.

Although the US has mistakenly attacked Pakistani targets before, this strike was far deadlier, according to the Guardian. A Pakistani government emergency committee convened in Islamabad announced today that Pakistan would " 'revisit and undertake a complete review of all programs, activities and cooperative arrangements' with the US, and US-led forces in Afghanistan, 'including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence.' "

"It is a very tragic incident and it couldn't come at a worse time," said Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We are all aware of the grave consequences that an incident like this can have."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta released a "rare" joint statement Saturday expressing their condolences.

The Shamsi airbase, located in western Baluchistan (see map), is the base for the US drone program, according to the Guardian. It was given over to the US after 9/11 and was "heavily used for launching the war in Afghanistan." However, the Wall Street Journal reports that the US ceased using the base for drone attacks this summer after Pakistan banned it this summer. 

Pakistan also blocked supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan following the attack, in which ISAF helicopters accidentally shelled checkpoints on the Pakistani side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. At least 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed and at least 13 injured.

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