Pakistan army says NATO attack was blatant aggression

ISLAMABAD Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:51pm EST

1 of 3. Residents, including shopkeepers and businessmen, hit the ground with their sandals to express their anger while shouting anti-American slogans during a demonstration in Lahore November 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mohsin Raza

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A senior Pakistani army official has said a NATO cross-border air attack that killed 24 soldiers was a deliberate, blatant act of aggression, hardening Pakistan's stance on an incident that could hurt efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Islamabad reacted angrily to the attack, which threatens to set back peace efforts in Afghanistan, by pulling out of an international conference in Germany next week on Afghanistan's future. It stood by its decision on Wednesday despite German hopes to the contrary.

Continuing that angry tone, Major General Ishfaq Nadeem, director general of military operations, said NATO forces were alerted they were attacking Pakistani posts but helicopters kept firing. His comments were carried in local newspapers on Wednesday that characterized the attack as blatant aggression.

"Detailed information of the posts was already with ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), including map references, and it was impossible that they did not know these to be our posts," The News quoted Nadeem as saying at an editors' briefing held at army headquarters on Tuesday.

NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military border posts in northwest Pakistan on Saturday in the worst incident of its kind since Islamabad allied itself with Washington in 2001 in the war on militancy.

Fury over the attack is growing, with more protests across Pakistan and tough editorials in newspapers.

The helicopters appeared near the post around 15 to 20 minutes past midnight, opened fire, then left about 45 minutes later, Nadeem was quoted as saying. They reappeared at 0115 local time and attacked again for another hour, he said.

Nadeem said that, minutes before the first attack, a U.S. sergeant on duty at a communications centre in Afghanistan told a Pakistani major that NATO special forces were receiving indirect fire from a location 15 km (9 miles) from the posts.

The Pakistanis said they needed time to check and asked for coordinates. Nadeem said the unidentified sergeant called back to say "your ... post has been hit." Nadeem concluded that meant NATO knew the locations of the Pakistani posts before attacking, said The News.

The army released a video to the media showing what it said were the Pakistani border posts -- rough constructions of large stones, corrugated metal and canvas in isolated positions.

Filmed from a helicopter, it also showed foxholes and what appeared to be a mortar emplacement surrounded by rocks.

REINVIGORATED MILITARY

The NATO attack shifted attention away from Pakistan's widely questioned performance against militants who cross its border to attack U.S. and other NATO forces in Afghanistan, and has given the military a chance to reassert itself.

"It is definitely not Pakistan's intention to work against the rest of the world," Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told Dawn News television on Wednesday.

"But the rest of the world also has to understand that if they have pushed Pakistan into this corner, violated red lines, then they have denied the basis of partnership," she said.

Islamabad's decision to boycott next week's meeting in Bonn will deprive the talks of a key player that could nudge Taliban militants into a peace process as NATO combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

In Berlin, foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said Pakistan had not yet formally withdrawn and that Islamabad had "a big interest" in the meeting being a success. Within minutes, a foreign ministry official in Islamabad told Reuters Tuesday's decision was "the final word."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier on Wednesday Pakistan's decision was "regrettable" but hoped to secure Islamabad's cooperation in future.

The army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history and sets security and foreign policy, faced strong criticism from both the Pakistani public and its ally, the United States, after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The al Qaeda leader had apparently been living in a Pakistani garrison town for years before U.S. special forces found and killed him in a unilateral raid in May.

Pakistanis criticized the military for failing to protect their sovereignty, and angry U.S. officials wondered whether some members of military intelligence had sheltered him. Pakistan's government and military said they had no idea bin Laden was in the country.

The army seems to have regained its confidence, and won the support of the public and the government in a country where anti-American sentiment often runs high.

More than 1,000 Pakistani religious students protested in Lahore city, yelling "Death to NATO" and "Death to America."

"If NATO and America do something like this again, we are going to turn Pakistan into their graveyard," said 23-year-old university student Zahoor Ahmad.

In the financial hub Karachi, women and children were among about 2,000 protesters. "The government should end all relations with the United States," said Khadija Subzwari, a mother of four. In Multan, protesters burned an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama and an American flag.

NATO hopes an investigation it promised will defuse the crisis and that confidence-building measures can repair ties.

But the military is firmly focused on NATO, and analysts say it is likely to take advantage of the widespread anger to press its interests in any future peace talks on Afghanistan.

The army is well aware that many Pakistanis believe the war on militancy their country joined has only served U.S. interests while thousands of Pakistani soldiers have died fighting.

"If the military and government are not in sync with the public opinion, they are seen as the bad guys, they are seen as the lackeys of the Americans," said Mahmud Durrani, a former national security chief and ambassador to Washington.

In the town of Dera Ismail Khan, social worker Umar Mehsud, 28, echoed the thoughts of many furious Pakistanis.

"Our leaders are asleep, oblivious to the problems of the people. It is sad and worrying that we are being bombed by a country which calls us a major ally," he said.

While officials on either side of the border disagree on the circumstances of the incident, it is possible that a retaliatory attack by NATO troops took a tragic, mistaken turn in harsh terrain where differentiating friend from foe can be difficult.

Nadeem was adamant NATO had been told it was attacking Pakistani positions. "They continued regardless, with impunity," The News quoted him as saying.

(Additional reporting by Qasim Nauman in ISLAMABAD, Mubasher Bukhari in LAHORE, Asim Tanveer in MULTAN, Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN and Faisal Aziz in KARACHI, and Stephen Brown, Erik Kirschbaum and Sylvia Westall in BERLIN; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Comments (57)
wolfboi1970 wrote:
I think we should REALLY give them a reason to be pissed, and keep bombing all the way to Islamabad, cut off ALL AID, And take out their nukes…then they would be of no interest to the world, and no threat. The nukes are the main reason there is such interest in that country and who has control of it. And in my opinion, it has been controlled by slick talking two-faced liars, that play both sides of the fence to get and gain as much aid, assistance and control as possible. The double agent thing has come to an end…. its time to pick a side and stand by it!!!

Nov 30, 2011 4:14am EST  --  Report as abuse
Babardurrani wrote:
India has been avoiding the situation, they haven’t openly spoken against taliban, or took any actions, India never offered the US to provide supply of NATO through their routes, because Indian is not as powerful as Pakistan is, Where as nobody has a proof that bin laden was killed in abbottabad, many analysts believe he must have died long ago, before 2011, due to renal failure, And even if he was there, That doesn’t mean he was being sheltered, it could be due to intelligence failure, just like the World super power, the world’s strongest army with latest technology in 9/11 failed to stop 9/11 Attacks, three jets flying in newyork, the world’s strongest country, what was the pentagon and CIA doing? what if we say they were sheltering Al-Qaeda as well, let’s not go there, Pakistan has lost 35,000 lives, india hasn’t lost 1 live due to war against terror, Pakistan has lost 5000 soldiers and more than 15000 injured, India hasn’t lost one due to war against terror, Pakistan has spoken openly against Al Qaeda and Taliban and took practical major actions, and indians couldn’t even speak openly against them, And I don’t expect the ISI to co-operate honestly with CIA, if the CIA plays double games with our country and military, INDIA(RAW) (MOOSAD) ISRAEL (CIA) USA has been funding the terrorists in Pakistan areas, there are major proofs of that, india has been destabilizing balochistan, and on the other hand the USA is now dealing with taliban on democratic tables in afghanistan, but they want pakistan to trust them, and do whatever they are told to do, this will not continue like this, Pakistan is a nuclear state, and the most lethal one on the planet, if you dare to mess with pakistan, China, iran and many other countries would retaliate, this is not acceptable, nor india will be accepted as a superior country than pakistan, Infact pakistan got more nuclear weapons in their hands, if Pakistani people die, the whole world has to suffer and end up.

Nov 30, 2011 4:22am EST  --  Report as abuse
fahrenheit wrote:
@Parker its amazing that the world still can not decide who is aggressor and making atrocities through out the world. Who has given right to US and team(NATO) to bomb,blood shed, kill people any where they like? They have created a label which is “terrorism” and they have made their own defination of this word. Just tag any person you dont like and kill him!!
The biggest threat to the world is US and no other, they have this crazy “dominate the world with power” agenda which the try to implement without any sence of achieving goal.I am god everybody else is bad!!
Just leave us alone and get out of Pakistan, and dont blame us for your failures in afgh.

Nov 30, 2011 4:27am EST  --  Report as abuse
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