Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a Pakistani military spokesman, stopped short of that characterization, but he said the strike was “inexplicable.” In an interview, he said the two border posts are clearly marked and their locations are known to Afghan and coalition forces. No militant or military firing preceded the NATO assault, nor did coalition troops inform Pakistan that they were receiving fire from the Pakistani side, as is procedure, Abbas said.
Once the strike began, Abbas said, soldiers notified their commanders in the nearby city of Peshawar, who told officials at military headquarters in Rawalpindi, who then informed two trilateral border coordination centers located at the Torkham pass and the border of Pakistan’s North Waziristan region.
Pakistan has blocked vital supply routes for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan after coalition aircraft allegedly killed 24 Pakistani troops. The Obama administration has pledged a full investigation into the incident. (Nov. 26)
“But somehow it continued,” Abbas said of the firing. “Our side believes there is no possibility of confusion. The post location is not where a Taliban would take position.”
Afghan and U.S. military officials, however, say they believe Taliban fighters — many of whom are based in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas — sometimes operate alongside Pakistani troops. The United States has long alleged that insurgents are sheltered and at times aided by Pakistan, which views them as assets for influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies that.
In Afghanistan’s Paktika province, a border area farther south from where Saturday’s incident took place, U.S. soldiers have repeatedly come under attack by rockets fired near Pakistani border posts, sometimes within sight of these bases. Some U.S. soldiers believe Pakistani troops are complicit in these attacks, or at least do little to stop them, while others say the evidence for this is not clear. Pakistan says all military firing from its side into Afghanistan is aimed at fleeing insurgents.
Abbas said the area on the Pakistani side of the border where the airstrike occurred, Mohmand, has been “cleared completely” of militants, so none would have fired on the Afghan-U.S. operation. Leaders of anti-Taliban tribal militias that fight alongside Pakistani security forces in Mohmand supported that Sunday, and they also described a sustained NATO air assault that lasted two to three hours.
“The attack has helped militancy prevail,” said Malik Sultan Khan, who heads a militia that has been fighting the Taliban in Mohmand for three years. “We are desperate to take revenge from the U.S.”
Partlow reported from Kabul. Special correspondent Haq Nawaz Khan contributed from Peshawar, Pakistan.