Pakistan tells U.S. to vacate Shamsi Airbase in 15 days over NATO air strikes

Party Rooster

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Pakistan reviews US, Nato ties over lethal strike
AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Sunday it was reviewing its alliance with the United States and Nato after up to 26 soldiers were killed in cross-border Nato air strikes, plunging frosty US ties into deeper crisis.

Pakistan sealed its Afghan border to Nato, shutting down a lifeline for the estimated 130,000 US-led foreign troops fighting the Taliban, and called on the United States to leave a secretive air base (Shamsi) reportedly used by CIA drones.

Islamabad protested to Nato and the United States in the strongest terms — summoning US ambassador Cameron Munter, branding the strike a violation of international law and warning that there could be serious repercussions.

The US-led Nato force in Afghanistan admitted it was “highly likely” that the force’s aircraft caused the deaths before dawn on Saturday, inflaming US-Pakistani relations still reeling from the May killing of Osama bin Laden.

The US commander in Afghanistan promised a full investigation and sent his condolences over any troops “who may have been killed” on the Afghan border with Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt, branded an al Qaeda hub by Washington.

Nato troops frequently carry out operations against Taliban insurgents close to the border with Pakistan, which in many places is unmarked, although the extent to which those operations are coordinated with Pakistan is unclear.

Afghan and US officials accuse Pakistani troops at worst of colluding with the Taliban or at best of standing by while insurgents fire across the border from Pakistani soil, often in clear sight of Pakistani border posts.

At the same time Pakistan, battling its own Taliban insurgency in the northwest and dependent on billions of dollars in US aid, gives the US-led war effort in Afghanistan vital logistics support.

Key questions remain unanswered about what exactly happened in Mohmand district, just hours after General John Allen, the US commander in Afghanistan, discussed coordination with Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

Pakistan said Nato helicopters and fighter aircraft fired “unprovoked” overnight Friday-Saturday on two army border posts, killing 24 to 26 troops and wounding 13, adding that Pakistani troops had returned fire.

The government said the attacks were “a grave infringement” of sovereignty, a “serious transgression of the oft-conveyed red lines”.

A spokesman for Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, confirmed that foreign soldiers, working with Afghan troops, called in air support for an operation near the border.

“It’s highly likely that this close air support, called by the ground forces, caused the casualties,” Jacobson told AFP.

Pakistan swiftly sealed its border with Afghanistan to Nato supplies — holding up convoys at the Torkham and Chaman crossings on the main overland US supply line into landlocked Afghanistan from the Arabian Sea port of Karachi.

An extraordinary meeting of cabinet ministers and military chiefs ordered the United States to leave the Shamsi air base within 15 days, despite reports that American personnel had already left.

It also said the government would “undertake a complete review of all programmes, activities and cooperative arrangements with US/Nato/Isaf, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence”.

In Afghanistan, Allen promised a thorough investigation “to determine the facts” and extended his condolences to the loved ones of anyone who died.

Munter expressed “regret” over any loss of life and pledged the United States would work “closely” with Pakistan to investigate.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States have been in crisis since American troops killed bin Laden near the capital without prior warning and after a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January.

Pakistani, US and Afghan officials have traded complaints about responsibility for cross-border attacks, with each side accusing the other of not doing enough to prevent insurgent assaults on military positions.

In September 2010, Pakistan shut the main land route for Nato supplies at Torkham for 11 days after accusing Nato of killing three Pakistani troops.

The border was reopened after the United States formally apologised.

Americans have long accused Pakistan of playing a double game with the Taliban, and the issue came to a head in September when the then top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan of colluding in a US embassy siege in Kabul.

US drones carry out routine missile attacks on Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt, where American officials say neutralising militants is vital to winning the war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan last week forced its envoy to the United States, Husain Haqqani, to step down over accusations that he sought American help in limiting Pakistan’s powerful military after the bin Laden raid.

His successor, Sherry Rehman, has yet to arrive in Washington.
http://www.dawn.com/2011/11/26/pakistan-asks-us-to-vacate-shamsi-airbase-within-15-days.html
 

Norm Stansfield

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Mar 17, 2009
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#4
Remember when their only two options were with us and against us? What was wrong with that plan? Too arrogant on our part? Needed to be softened up?
 

mills

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#6
To be fair, we did accidentally shoot up a couple dozen of their guys. They have a right to be pissed.
Yeah really. It'd be nice to get at least an inkling of what the fuck they were even trying to accomplish. Every news article I've seen written about it has been infuriatingly vague.
 

Falldog

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Yeah, but they were hiding bin Laden, so fuck 'em.

Take all of that money we've been sending to them and give it to India out of spite.
 

Norm Stansfield

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Yeah really. It'd be nice to get at least an inkling of what the fuck they were even trying to accomplish. Every news article I've seen written about it has been infuriatingly vague.
Are you mad that no one's supplying you with details on American war plans in Afghanistan?
 

mills

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#10
Are you mad that no one's supplying you with details on American war plans in Afghanistan?
Yes. I'm a superhero who knows 99.9% of everything, therefore I need to be informed of these things as soon as possible. Preferably by way of the batphone, or, as I like to call it, CNN.com.
 

Norm Stansfield

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#11
To be fair, we did accidentally shoot up a couple dozen of their guys. They have a right to be pissed.
To be fair, Pakistan claims to be a sovereign state. A sovereign state is responsible for acts of war lauched off its territory, like the terror attacks against India, Europe and even Russia, and the Taliban campaign against NATO in Afghanistan.

So, to be fair, wiping out the entire Pakistani government, intelligence establishment and military, not by accident but on purpose, would be perfectly justified on our part, as retribution for all the attacks they allowed to be launched off of their territory. That goes for both the West and India, btw.

So maybe, since we are stupid enough to not only leave them alone and go in and do their job for them, but actually pressure India to do the same, they should shut the fuck up if sometimes their inept military gets in a way of a NATO missile or two.
 

Motor Head

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#12
I still think the Porkistani military is the Taliban's bestest buddy and the got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
 

Ihateinternmatt

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#13
I still think the Porkistani military is the Taliban's bestest buddy and the got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
Exactly right and the president we have in office now doesnt give a shit about that, he sided with the muslims on every issue in every country including our own. It would be nice to have a president that cared about us and our country. The entire world is in shit storm and he goes around saying sorry to these countries that our living off our dollar and our military. Fuck them.
 

Josh_R

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Jan 29, 2005
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#14
To be fair, we did accidentally shoot up a couple dozen of their guys. They have a right to be pissed.
And they were harboring Bin Laden for years while accepting billions in our foreign aid money. They are assholes and we should have been the ones to leave on our own. Fuck them.
 

nikoloslvy

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#15
Yeah, but they were hiding bin Laden, so fuck 'em.

Take all of that money we've been sending to them and give it to India out of spite.


Approves.

I've been saying that for years. With friends like these....
 

Party Rooster

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#16
Exactly right and the president we have in office now doesnt give a shit about that, he sided with the muslims on every issue in every country including our own. It would be nice to have a president that cared about us and our country. The entire world is in shit storm and he goes around saying sorry to these countries that our living off our dollar and our military. Fuck them.
 

Party Rooster

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#18
Pakistan is fast moving ahead of Iran as one of the countries we're going to have to deal with sooner rather than later...

November 27, 2011 5:19 PM

Afghans: We sought bombing of Pakistan outpost

(AP) ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan officials claimed Sunday that Afghan and NATO forces were retaliating for gunfire from two Pakistani army bases when they called in airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, adding a layer of complexity to episode that has further strained Pakistan's ties with the United States.
The account challenged Pakistan's claim that the strikes were unprovoked.

The attack Saturday near the Afghan-Pakistani border aroused popular anger in Pakistan and added tension to the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, which has been under pressure since the secret U.S. raid inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

Pakistan has closed its western border to trucks delivering supplies to coalition troops in Afghanistan, demanded that the U.S. abandon an air base inside Pakistan and said it will review its cooperation with the U.S. and NATO.

A complete breakdown in the relationship between the United States and Pakistan is considered unlikely. Pakistan relies on billions of dollars in American aid, and the U.S. needs Pakistan to push Afghan insurgents to participate in peace talks.

Afghanistan's assertions about the attack muddy the efforts to determine what happened. The Afghan officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said it was unclear who fired on Afghan and NATO forces, which were conducting a joint operation before dawn Saturday.

They said the fire came from the direction of the two Pakistani army posts along the border that were later hit in the airstrikes.

NATO has said it is investigating, but it has not questioned the Pakistani claim that 24 soldiers were killed. All airstrikes are approved at a higher command level than the troops on the ground.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen offered his deepest condolences and said the coalition was committed to working with Pakistan to "avoid such tragedies in the future."

"We have a joint interest in the fight against cross-border terrorism and in ensuring that Afghanistan does not once again become a safe-haven for terrorists," Rasmussen said in Brussels.

NATO officials have complained that insurgents fire from across the poorly defined frontier, often from positions close to Pakistani soldiers, who have been accused of tolerating or supporting them.

The U.S. plans its own investigation. Two U.S. senators called Sunday for harder line on Pakistan.

People offer funeral prayers of Saturday's NATO attack victims in Peshawar, Pakistan on Sunday, Nov 27, 2011. (Credit: AP Photo)
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Pakistan must understand that American aid depends on Pakistani cooperation. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Pakistan's moves to punish coalition forces for the airstrikes are more evidence that the U.S. should get its troops out of the region.

On Sunday, Pakistani soldiers received the coffins of the victims from army helicopters and prayed over them. The coffins were draped with the green and white Pakistani flag.

The dead included an army major and another senior officer. The chief of the Pakistani army and regional political leaders attended the funerals.

"The attack was unprovoked and indiscriminate," said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. "There was no reason for it. Map references of all our border posts have been passed to NATO a number of times."

There were several protests around Pakistan, including in Karachi, where about 500 Islamists rallied outside the U.S. Consulate.

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation in a strategically vital part of the world, grew more difficult after the covert raid that killed bin Laden in May.

Pakistani leaders were outraged that they were not told beforehand. Also, the U.S. has been frustrated by Pakistan's refusal to target militants using its territory to stage attacks on American and other NATO troops in Afghanistan.

A year ago, a U.S. helicopter attack killed two Pakistani soldiers posted on the border, and a joint investigation by the two nations found that Pakistani troops had fired first at the U.S. helicopters.

The investigation found that the shots were probably meant as warnings after the choppers passed into Pakistani airspace.

After that incident, Pakistan closed one of the two border crossings for U.S. supplies for 10 days. There was no indication of how long it would keep the border closed this time.

On Sunday, about 300 trucks carrying supplies to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan were backed up at the Torkham border crossing in the northwest Khyber tribal area, the one closed last year, as well as at Chaman, in the southwestern Baluchistan province.

Militants inside Pakistan periodically attack the slow-moving convoys, and torched 150 trucks last year as they waited for days to enter Afghanistan.

"We are worried," said Saeed Khan, a driver waiting at the border terminal in Torkham and speaking by phone. "This area is always vulnerable to attacks. Sometimes rockets are lobbed at us. Sometimes we are targeted by bombs."

Some drivers said paramilitary troops had been deployed to protect their convoys since the closures, but others were left without any additional protection. Even those who did receive troops did not feel safe.

"If there is an attack, what can five or six troops do?" said Niamatullah Khan, a fuel truck driver who was parked with 35 other vehicles at a restaurant about 125 miles, or 200 kilometers, from Chaman.

NATO uses routes through Pakistan for almost half of its shipments of non-lethal supplies for its troops in Afghanistan, including fuel, food and clothes. Critical supplies like ammunition are airlifted directly to Afghan air bases.

NATO has built a stockpile of military and other supplies that could keep operations running at their current level for several months even with the two crossings closed, said a NATO official closely involved with the Afghan war, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

NATO once shipped about 80 percent of its non-lethal supplies through Pakistan. It has reduced that proportion by going through Central Asia. It could send more that way, but that would make NATO heavily dependent on Russia at a time when ties with Moscow are increasingly strained.

Pakistan also gave the U.S. 15 days to vacate Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan. The U.S. uses it to service drone aircraft targeting al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal region when weather problems or mechanical trouble keeps the drones from returning to their bases in Afghanistan, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The drone strikes are very unpopular in Pakistan, and Pakistani military and civilian leaders say publicly that the U.S. carries them out without their permission. But privately, they allow them to go on, and even help with targeting for some of them.
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57331726/afghans-we-sought-bombing-of-pakistan-outpost/
 

Motor Head

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#19
Cut off all foreign aid to Pakistan and use the money to hire contractors to fly the fucking supplies in. Better yet, cut off all foreign aid and drop a MOAB in an un-populated area as a reminder of just how fucking evil we can be if pushed. Oh wait, Obama is in charge. Never mind.
 

nikoloslvy

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We are all supposed to forget about this:

http://www.dawn.com/2011/11/18/mansoor-ijaz-names-haqqani-as-his-source.html

"Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman, told Dawn on Thursday that it indeed was Ambassador Husain Haqqani who asked him to deliver an alleged incendiary memo to the then American military chief days after the May 2 US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, seeking his help to avert a possible military coup in Pakistan."

After the latest in repeated incidents and U.S. vs Pakistan border skirmishes...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakistan–United_States_skirmishes

The demand from the Pakies to leave Shamsi air base coming only 10 hours of the latest incident is highly suspect and very disingenuous being that there were many U.S. v Pakistan skirmishes. The Pakistanis have their very scripted message down pat taking full advantage of the situation while the united states is out there fumbling, promising investigations and apologizing before any wrong doing can even be verified by either party.

Way to go...go back to you're golfing and stay there stupid. (Emphasis mine.)

Based on interviews from the John Batchelor show with Bill Roggio.
 

nikoloslvy

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December 1, 2011



By Nate Hughes
In the early hours of Nov. 26 on the Afghan-Pakistani border, what was almost certainly a flight of U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and an AC-130 gunship killed some two dozen Pakistani servicemen at two border outposts inside Pakistan. Details remain scarce, conflicting and disputed, but the incident was known to have taken place near the border of the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar and the Mohmand agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The death toll inflicted by the United States against Pakistani servicemen is unprecedented, and while U.S. commanders and NATO leaders have expressed regret over the incident, the reaction from Pakistan has been severe.

Claims and Interests

The initial Pakistani narrative of the incident describes an unprovoked and aggressive attack on well-established outposts more than a mile inside Pakistani territory — outposts known to the Americans and ones that representatives of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had visited in the past. The attack supposedly lasted for some two hours despite distressed communications from the outpost to the Pakistani military’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi.


(click here to enlarge image)

The United States was quick to acknowledge that Pakistani troops were probably killed by attack aircraft providing close air support to a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol near the Kunar border, and while U.S. Marine Gen. James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, promised a high-level investigation, the United States and NATO seemed to be more interested in smoothing relations with Islamabad than endorsing or correcting initial reports about the specifics of the attack.
What has ensued has been a classic media storm of accusations, counteraccusations, theories and specifics provided by unnamed sources that all serve to obscure the truth as much as they clarify it. Meanwhile, no matter what actually happened, aggressive spin campaigns have been launched to shape perceptions of the incident for myriad interests. Given the longstanding tensions between Washington and Islamabad as well as a record of cross-border incidents, stakeholders will believe exactly what they want to believe about the Nov. 26 incident, and even an official investigation will have little bearing on their entrenched views.

The Framework

While statements and accusations have often referenced NATO and the ISAF, it is U.S. forces that operate in this part of the country, and this close to the border the unit involved was likely operating under the aegis of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (the U.S. command in Afghanistan) rather than under the multinational ISAF. Indeed, many American allies have also expressed frustration over the incident, convinced that it undermines ISAF operations in Afghanistan.
Reports indicate that a U.S. special operations team (likely a platoon-sized element, but at least a 12-man detachment) accompanied by Afghan commandos (generally a seven-man squad accompanies a U.S. platoon, but 25- to 30-man platoons sometimes accompany 12-man U.S. teams) were involved in an engagement and called for close air support. It now seems clear that both sides opened fire at some point. At least one unidentified senior Pakistani defense official told The Washington Post that it had been the Pakistanis who fired first, opening up with mortars and machine guns after sending up an illumination round. However, most Pakistani sources continue to deny this.
Given that Washington has been trying to smooth over already tense relations with Islamabad, such an aggressive attack taking place without provocation seems unlikely. In any event, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operated by the CIA essentially have free rein in Pakistani airspace over the border area and are often used for targeted assassinations, meaning that the involvement of attack helicopters rather than UAVs does lend credence to the close air support claim. (The principle of hot pursuit, which is understood and often exercised by U.S. patrols along the border, might also have been applied.)

The Border

The “border” between Afghanistan and Pakistan in this area is part of the Durand Line agreed upon between the Afghan monarch and the colonial authority of British India in 1893. Not only is the border poorly marked, it also divides extraordinarily rugged terrain and essentially bisects the Pashtun population. And from the British perspective, the agreement was intended to establish a broad buffer between British and Russian interests in Central Asia by establishing a line along the distant, outer frontier of British India. British priorities had little to do with the day-to-day realities of a fixed linear boundary, and to this day the specific border exists primarily on paper.
The border is characterized by a string of outposts — often little more than prepared fighting positions and some crude shelters that are difficult to distinguish between military, government or civilian structures — manned by the paramilitary Frontier Corps on the Pakistani side. These positions presumably are selected for their tactical value in monitoring and dominating the border, and the troops occupying those positions invariably know the general location of the border before them. Similarly, U.S. special operations teams are well trained and practiced in land navigation at night, regularly conduct operations in the area and are there to patrol that very border. Both sides know full well their general positions relative to the border.

Reuters
A post-attack image of the Pakistani outpost involved in the Nov. 26 cross-border incident
The point is that, whatever the specifics of the Nov. 26 incident, it appears largely consistent with and governed by the underlying tactical realities of the border. A small Pakistani outpost that perceives a threatening, armed entity will take advantage of its position and heavier weaponry in engaging the force rather than let it slip any closer — and this will be more true the smaller and more isolated the garrison. Under fire, a U.S. interdiction patrol (as distinct from a reconnaissance patrol, for which breaking contact is proscribed if feasible) will move quickly to advantageous terrain dictated by the direction of fire and the immediate geography around it, regardless of the border. If the situation dictates, the patrol may engage in hot pursuit across the border after being attacked.
The border is a highway for insurgents (both those who use Pakistan as a sanctuary for their fight in Afghanistan and those who are doing the reverse), other militants and supplies. That’s why the border outposts are manned and U.S.-Afghan teams conduct patrols — to interdict both types of insurgents. But it also means that there are plenty of armed formations moving around at night, and from the perspective of both a Pakistani outpost and a U.S. patrol, none of them is friendly.

Close Air Support

Pakistani forces have regularly shelled targets on the Afghan side of the border, and on a number of occasions U.S. forces have killed Pakistani troops — in firefights, with artillery, with UAVs and with attack helicopters. Indeed, standard U.S. operating procedures allow Pakistani troops and militants alike to know the probable American response in a given tactical scenario — including what it takes to get close air support called in.
Any dismounted American foot patrol that takes fire from both mortars and heavy machine guns is going to call for whatever fire support it can get. And given the frequency of incidents and the rugged terrain near the border, special operations teams operating near the border are likely to have a flight of Apaches close by ready to provide that support.
The forward-looking infrared sensor mounted on the nose of the AH-64 Apache is capable of remarkable resolution — sufficient to make out not only adult individuals but the shapes of weapons they may be carrying. But the history of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is also rife with incidents where aircrews, acting on the information available to them (and with the context of being called in to support friendly forces under fire), engaged targets only later to find that the activity or weaponry had not been as it appeared — a reporter with a long, telephoto lens on a camera rather than a rocket launcher or children picking up pinecones instead of insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device.
Particularly on the border, the pilot and gunner are making the same distinction Pakistani outposts and American patrols are likely to make in the area: Armed individuals and groups not known to be friendly are probably hostile. The position of friendly forces will be communicated by the air controller in contact with the aircrew and also generally by infrared strobes or other means. Though the air controller will indicate the immediate threat, any non-friendly position could quickly be judged hostile. Any unit firing or maneuvering with what appears to be weaponry may quickly be deemed hostile in the exigency of the moment and the uncertainty of the environment based on limited information. And while ISAF has tightened its rules of engagement and added additional oversight for close air support in Afghanistan in response to domestic outrage over collateral damage, there is still going to be an enormous difference between the restraint exercised in, say, Marjah, where a population-centered counterinsurgency campaign is actively under way, and an isolated special operations patrol near the Pakistani border in an area known to be frequented by militants.

The Big Picture

In a way, the Afghan-Pakistani border is a microcosm of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. The U.S. patrols and the Pakistani outposts are there for entirely different and in some cases directly opposing reasons. The Pakistanis are spread thin in the FATA and are focusing their efforts on the Pakistani Taliban, which have their sights set on Islamabad. Not only are they less interested in confronting the Afghan Taliban as a matter of priority, but Pakistani national interest dictates maintaining a functional relationship with the Afghan Taliban as leverage in dealing with the United States and as a way to control Afghanistan as the United States and its allies begin to withdraw.
Hence, elements of the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate are actively engaged in supporting the Afghan Taliban and have in some cases come to see common cause with them — not only in supporting the Afghan Taliban but also in actively undermining U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and disrupting Pakistani cooperation with the United States. Indeed, the timing and magnitude of the Nov. 26 incident — which was entirely plausible under a number of scenarios — calls into question whether it may have been staged or intended to provoke the response it did. Some reports have indicated that the Taliban may have staged an initial attack intended to draw the Pakistani positions and the American patrol into a firefight with each other.
Whatever the case, factions that benefit from a greater division between Pakistan and the United States will be aided by the incident and subsequent public outcry — as will the Pakistani state, which is now holding its own cooperation hostage for better terms in its relationship with Washington.
Ultimately, however, there is a reason for the long, established history of cross-border incidents and skirmishes. The United States and Pakistan are playing very different games for very different ends on both sides of the border and in Afghanistan. They have different adversaries and are playing on different timetables. The alliance is one of necessity but hobbled by incompatibility, and near-term American imperatives in Afghanistan — lines of supply, political progress, counterterrorism efforts — clash directly with the long-term American interest in a strong Pakistani state able to manage its territory and keep its nuclear arsenal secure. The near-term demands Washington has made on Islamabad weaken the state and divide the country. Obviously, the Pakistani government intends to retain its strength and keep the country as unified as possible.
The reality is that as long as the political objectives that dictate U.S. and Pakistani military strategies and tactics are generally at odds, there will be tension and conflict. And as long as Pakistani and American forces are both patrolling a border that exists primarily on paper, they will be at odds. Tactically, this means armed groups with many divergent loyalties will be circling one another.

The Fallout

What actually happened early on Nov. 26 is increasingly irrelevant; it is merely a symptom of larger issues that remain unresolved, and the fallout has already taken shape. Pakistan is leveraging the incident for everything it can and is already demonstrating its displeasure (both for political leverage and to satisfy an enraged domestic populace) by doing the following:
• Closing the crucial border crossings at Torkham near the Khyber Pass and Chaman to the south
• Giving the CIA 15 days to vacate the Shamsi air base in Balochistan from which it conducts UAV operations (though Pakistani airspace reportedly remains open to such flights)
• Reviewing its intelligence and military cooperation with the United States and NATO
• Boycotting the upcoming Dec. 5 Bonn conference on Afghanistan, though there are some hints already that it may reconsider; it is difficult to imagine what a conference on Afghanistan without Pakistan might achieve, but Islamabad would face other risks in not attending such a conference.
The larger question is whether the calculus for an alliance of necessity between the United States and Pakistan still holds. As the American and allied withdrawal from Afghanistan accelerates, without a political understanding between Washington, Islamabad, Kabul and the Afghan Taliban, there is little prospect of American and Pakistani interests coming into any closer alignment. The United States and its allies are moving for the exits while the Pakistanis try to ensure optimal circumstances surrounding the withdrawal and at the same time ensure maximum leverage to manage whatever ends up being left behind. The two countries still have numerous incentives to continue cooperation, but all the ingredients for cross-border incidents and skirmishes — as well as the opportunity to stage, provoke and exploit those incidents and skirmishes — remain firmly in place.
 

nikoloslvy

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#23
December 1, 2011



By Nate Hughes
In the early hours of Nov. 26 on the Afghan-Pakistani border, what was almost certainly a flight of U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and an AC-130 gunship killed some two dozen Pakistani servicemen at two border outposts inside Pakistan. Details remain scarce, conflicting and disputed, but the incident was known to have taken place near the border of the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar and the Mohmand agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The death toll inflicted by the United States against Pakistani servicemen is unprecedented, and while U.S. commanders and NATO leaders have expressed regret over the incident, the reaction from Pakistan has been severe.

Claims and Interests

The initial Pakistani narrative of the incident describes an unprovoked and aggressive attack on well-established outposts more than a mile inside Pakistani territory — outposts known to the Americans and ones that representatives of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had visited in the past. The attack supposedly lasted for some two hours despite distressed communications from the outpost to the Pakistani military’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi.


(click here to enlarge image)

The United States was quick to acknowledge that Pakistani troops were probably killed by attack aircraft providing close air support to a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol near the Kunar border, and while U.S. Marine Gen. James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, promised a high-level investigation, the United States and NATO seemed to be more interested in smoothing relations with Islamabad than endorsing or correcting initial reports about the specifics of the attack.
What has ensued has been a classic media storm of accusations, counteraccusations, theories and specifics provided by unnamed sources that all serve to obscure the truth as much as they clarify it. Meanwhile, no matter what actually happened, aggressive spin campaigns have been launched to shape perceptions of the incident for myriad interests. Given the longstanding tensions between Washington and Islamabad as well as a record of cross-border incidents, stakeholders will believe exactly what they want to believe about the Nov. 26 incident, and even an official investigation will have little bearing on their entrenched views.

The Framework

While statements and accusations have often referenced NATO and the ISAF, it is U.S. forces that operate in this part of the country, and this close to the border the unit involved was likely operating under the aegis of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (the U.S. command in Afghanistan) rather than under the multinational ISAF. Indeed, many American allies have also expressed frustration over the incident, convinced that it undermines ISAF operations in Afghanistan.
Reports indicate that a U.S. special operations team (likely a platoon-sized element, but at least a 12-man detachment) accompanied by Afghan commandos (generally a seven-man squad accompanies a U.S. platoon, but 25- to 30-man platoons sometimes accompany 12-man U.S. teams) were involved in an engagement and called for close air support. It now seems clear that both sides opened fire at some point. At least one unidentified senior Pakistani defense official told The Washington Post that it had been the Pakistanis who fired first, opening up with mortars and machine guns after sending up an illumination round. However, most Pakistani sources continue to deny this.
Given that Washington has been trying to smooth over already tense relations with Islamabad, such an aggressive attack taking place without provocation seems unlikely. In any event, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operated by the CIA essentially have free rein in Pakistani airspace over the border area and are often used for targeted assassinations, meaning that the involvement of attack helicopters rather than UAVs does lend credence to the close air support claim. (The principle of hot pursuit, which is understood and often exercised by U.S. patrols along the border, might also have been applied.)

The Border

The “border” between Afghanistan and Pakistan in this area is part of the Durand Line agreed upon between the Afghan monarch and the colonial authority of British India in 1893. Not only is the border poorly marked, it also divides extraordinarily rugged terrain and essentially bisects the Pashtun population. And from the British perspective, the agreement was intended to establish a broad buffer between British and Russian interests in Central Asia by establishing a line along the distant, outer frontier of British India. British priorities had little to do with the day-to-day realities of a fixed linear boundary, and to this day the specific border exists primarily on paper.
The border is characterized by a string of outposts — often little more than prepared fighting positions and some crude shelters that are difficult to distinguish between military, government or civilian structures — manned by the paramilitary Frontier Corps on the Pakistani side. These positions presumably are selected for their tactical value in monitoring and dominating the border, and the troops occupying those positions invariably know the general location of the border before them. Similarly, U.S. special operations teams are well trained and practiced in land navigation at night, regularly conduct operations in the area and are there to patrol that very border. Both sides know full well their general positions relative to the border.

Reuters
A post-attack image of the Pakistani outpost involved in the Nov. 26 cross-border incident
The point is that, whatever the specifics of the Nov. 26 incident, it appears largely consistent with and governed by the underlying tactical realities of the border. A small Pakistani outpost that perceives a threatening, armed entity will take advantage of its position and heavier weaponry in engaging the force rather than let it slip any closer — and this will be more true the smaller and more isolated the garrison. Under fire, a U.S. interdiction patrol (as distinct from a reconnaissance patrol, for which breaking contact is proscribed if feasible) will move quickly to advantageous terrain dictated by the direction of fire and the immediate geography around it, regardless of the border. If the situation dictates, the patrol may engage in hot pursuit across the border after being attacked.
The border is a highway for insurgents (both those who use Pakistan as a sanctuary for their fight in Afghanistan and those who are doing the reverse), other militants and supplies. That’s why the border outposts are manned and U.S.-Afghan teams conduct patrols — to interdict both types of insurgents. But it also means that there are plenty of armed formations moving around at night, and from the perspective of both a Pakistani outpost and a U.S. patrol, none of them is friendly.

Close Air Support

Pakistani forces have regularly shelled targets on the Afghan side of the border, and on a number of occasions U.S. forces have killed Pakistani troops — in firefights, with artillery, with UAVs and with attack helicopters. Indeed, standard U.S. operating procedures allow Pakistani troops and militants alike to know the probable American response in a given tactical scenario — including what it takes to get close air support called in.
Any dismounted American foot patrol that takes fire from both mortars and heavy machine guns is going to call for whatever fire support it can get. And given the frequency of incidents and the rugged terrain near the border, special operations teams operating near the border are likely to have a flight of Apaches close by ready to provide that support.
The forward-looking infrared sensor mounted on the nose of the AH-64 Apache is capable of remarkable resolution — sufficient to make out not only adult individuals but the shapes of weapons they may be carrying. But the history of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is also rife with incidents where aircrews, acting on the information available to them (and with the context of being called in to support friendly forces under fire), engaged targets only later to find that the activity or weaponry had not been as it appeared — a reporter with a long, telephoto lens on a camera rather than a rocket launcher or children picking up pinecones instead of insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device.
Particularly on the border, the pilot and gunner are making the same distinction Pakistani outposts and American patrols are likely to make in the area: Armed individuals and groups not known to be friendly are probably hostile. The position of friendly forces will be communicated by the air controller in contact with the aircrew and also generally by infrared strobes or other means. Though the air controller will indicate the immediate threat, any non-friendly position could quickly be judged hostile. Any unit firing or maneuvering with what appears to be weaponry may quickly be deemed hostile in the exigency of the moment and the uncertainty of the environment based on limited information. And while ISAF has tightened its rules of engagement and added additional oversight for close air support in Afghanistan in response to domestic outrage over collateral damage, there is still going to be an enormous difference between the restraint exercised in, say, Marjah, where a population-centered counterinsurgency campaign is actively under way, and an isolated special operations patrol near the Pakistani border in an area known to be frequented by militants.

The Big Picture

In a way, the Afghan-Pakistani border is a microcosm of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. The U.S. patrols and the Pakistani outposts are there for entirely different and in some cases directly opposing reasons. The Pakistanis are spread thin in the FATA and are focusing their efforts on the Pakistani Taliban, which have their sights set on Islamabad. Not only are they less interested in confronting the Afghan Taliban as a matter of priority, but Pakistani national interest dictates maintaining a functional relationship with the Afghan Taliban as leverage in dealing with the United States and as a way to control Afghanistan as the United States and its allies begin to withdraw.
Hence, elements of the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate are actively engaged in supporting the Afghan Taliban and have in some cases come to see common cause with them — not only in supporting the Afghan Taliban but also in actively undermining U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and disrupting Pakistani cooperation with the United States. Indeed, the timing and magnitude of the Nov. 26 incident — which was entirely plausible under a number of scenarios — calls into question whether it may have been staged or intended to provoke the response it did. Some reports have indicated that the Taliban may have staged an initial attack intended to draw the Pakistani positions and the American patrol into a firefight with each other.
Whatever the case, factions that benefit from a greater division between Pakistan and the United States will be aided by the incident and subsequent public outcry — as will the Pakistani state, which is now holding its own cooperation hostage for better terms in its relationship with Washington.
Ultimately, however, there is a reason for the long, established history of cross-border incidents and skirmishes. The United States and Pakistan are playing very different games for very different ends on both sides of the border and in Afghanistan. They have different adversaries and are playing on different timetables. The alliance is one of necessity but hobbled by incompatibility, and near-term American imperatives in Afghanistan — lines of supply, political progress, counterterrorism efforts — clash directly with the long-term American interest in a strong Pakistani state able to manage its territory and keep its nuclear arsenal secure. The near-term demands Washington has made on Islamabad weaken the state and divide the country. Obviously, the Pakistani government intends to retain its strength and keep the country as unified as possible.
The reality is that as long as the political objectives that dictate U.S. and Pakistani military strategies and tactics are generally at odds, there will be tension and conflict. And as long as Pakistani and American forces are both patrolling a border that exists primarily on paper, they will be at odds. Tactically, this means armed groups with many divergent loyalties will be circling one another.

The Fallout

What actually happened early on Nov. 26 is increasingly irrelevant; it is merely a symptom of larger issues that remain unresolved, and the fallout has already taken shape. Pakistan is leveraging the incident for everything it can and is already demonstrating its displeasure (both for political leverage and to satisfy an enraged domestic populace) by doing the following:
• Closing the crucial border crossings at Torkham near the Khyber Pass and Chaman to the south
• Giving the CIA 15 days to vacate the Shamsi air base in Balochistan from which it conducts UAV operations (though Pakistani airspace reportedly remains open to such flights)
• Reviewing its intelligence and military cooperation with the United States and NATO
• Boycotting the upcoming Dec. 5 Bonn conference on Afghanistan, though there are some hints already that it may reconsider; it is difficult to imagine what a conference on Afghanistan without Pakistan might achieve, but Islamabad would face other risks in not attending such a conference.
The larger question is whether the calculus for an alliance of necessity between the United States and Pakistan still holds. As the American and allied withdrawal from Afghanistan accelerates, without a political understanding between Washington, Islamabad, Kabul and the Afghan Taliban, there is little prospect of American and Pakistani interests coming into any closer alignment. The United States and its allies are moving for the exits while the Pakistanis try to ensure optimal circumstances surrounding the withdrawal and at the same time ensure maximum leverage to manage whatever ends up being left behind. The two countries still have numerous incentives to continue cooperation, but all the ingredients for cross-border incidents and skirmishes — as well as the opportunity to stage, provoke and exploit those incidents and skirmishes — remain firmly in place.
 

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Liars! Pakistan Was Consulted Before Fatal Hit, U.S. Says

Deadly Border Strike Came After Forces Were Told Area Was Clear of Pakistani Troops, Officials Say

By JULIAN E. BARNES and ADAM ENTOUS
DECEMBER 2, 2011

WASHINGTON—Pakistani officials at a border coordination center gave the go-ahead to American airstrikes that inadvertently killed 24 Pakistan troops, unaware that their own forces were in the area, according to U.S. officials briefed on the preliminary investigation.

U.S. officials, giving their first detailed explanation of the worst friendly-fire incident of the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, said an Afghan-led assault force that included American commandos were hunting Taliban militants when they came under fire from an encampment along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The commandos thought they were being fired upon by militants. But the assailants turned out to be Pakistani military personnel who had established a temporary campsite, U.S. officials said.

According to the initial U.S. account from the field, the commandos requested airstrikes against the encampment, prompting the team to contact a joint border-control center to determine whether Pakistani forces were in the area, a U.S. official said.

The border-control center is manned by U.S., Afghan and Pakistani representatives who are supposed to share information and head off conflicts. But the U.S. and Afghan forces conducting the Nov. 26 commando operation hadn't notified the center in advance that they planned to strike Taliban insurgents near that part of the border, the official said.

When called, the Pakistani representatives at the center said there were no Pakistani military forces in the area identified by the commandos, clearing the way for the Americans to conduct the airstrikes, the U.S. officials said.

Officials in Islamabad couldn't be reached to comment on the U.S. allegations. Pakistan repeatedly has denied its forces fired on the Americans.

Pakistan doesn't have veto authority over strikes along the border, U.S. officials said. But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization makes contact with the center to make sure its operations don't put Pakistani troops or aircraft in the line of fire.

U.S. officials acknowledge there were errors made on both sides in the incident, which occurred in the Mohmand tribal region, a lawless border area that abuts Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province. They have called the Pakistani deaths a terrible accident. "There were lots of mistakes made," the official said. "There was not good situational awareness to who was where and who was doing what."

To prevent conflicts, officials working in the border-control center need to know whether NATO forces are planning operations in the border area. That allows the Pakistanis to notify its forces that the U.S. and Afghan forces would be operating there.

But U.S. officials have in the past expressed reservations about notifying the Pakistanis about operations, concerned the missions' details could leak out.

The U.S. officials cautioned the latest account is based mainly on interviews with members of the commando team and could change as more information is gathered.

A formal report on the incident is due to be completed by U.S. military investigators by Dec. 23. Officials said that investigation could incorporate overhead imagery and information collected from the aircraft that struck the Pakistani position.

"Our view on this will not be complete until we've completed the investigation," a senior official said.

The incident resulted in another major setback to U.S.-Pakistan relations. In response, Pakistan has pulled out of an international conference on the Afghan war in Bonn, Germany, next week. Islamabad also has closed border crossings used by the U.S. and its NATO allies to bring in supplies for troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials said earlier this week the attack on their base, known as Volcano, began just after midnight. About 50 minutes after the air assault began, Pakistani officials reached the NATO command in Afghanistan and told officials to call off the strikes, they said.

In addition to the strike on the border base, Pakistani officials said reinforcements trying to aid the stricken base also were hit by the airstrikes.

Pakistani military personnel in a second base began firing at the American helicopters. According to the Pakistani account, the helicopters flew off, then returned and struck the second post.

A senior Pakistani military officer said it was impossible for the U.S. not to know it was firing at Pakistani military bases.

U.S. officials countered that the Pakistani positions were more like makeshift campsites than established military bases. A U.S. official said that because the Taliban and Pakistani military use some of the same weaponry, it was difficult to tell who was firing at the assault force.

"There was absolutely no malicious, deliberate attack on the Pakistani military posts," a U.S. defense official said.

Other American officials said the Pakistani military should have known from the presence of helicopters used to ferry in the combined U.S.-Afghan commando force that Americans were in the area.

"If you hear American helicopters why would you lob mortars and machine gun fire at them? The Pakistanis can say we thought it was insurgents, except for the fact that the Taliban doesn't have helicopters," said the U.S. official.

The White House has decided, at least for now, against having President Barack Obama issue a video message offering condolences for the Pakistani deaths, officials said. The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and other State Department officials had recommended such a video message to try to ease tensions between Washington and Islamabad over the incident.

But other officials argued that it was premature for Mr. Obama to intervene so publicly given continued uncertainty about what exactly transpired.

Republican candidates for the White House often accuse Mr. Obama of being too quick to apologize for U.S. actions.

"There was, obviously, no apology, and there was an expression of condolences," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, noting that the investigation into the incident was "at the early stages."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203833104577072771910500442.html?mod=googlenews_wsj