Cross-Border Strikes By NATO Helicopters In Pakistan

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Sept. 28 said recent cross-border
strikes by NATO helicopters in Pakistan were marked by “communication
breakdowns,” as allied officers were not able to contact their
Pakistani counterparts about the operation until afterward.

Pakistan on Sept. 27 denounced last week’s helicopter air strikes as
flouting the country’s sovereignty, but the NATO-led International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in neighboring Afghanistan has
insisted its troops had the right to defend themselves.

“I don’t know that I’d call it a disagreement but there are
certainly discussions under way between our forces and the Pakistanis
about this particular incident,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan
told reporters.

The talks were focused on “what were the communication breakdowns, what happened, what was supposed to happen,” Lapan said.

Procedures call for ISAF forces to contact Pakistani officers if
coalition troops must cross the border, either before or during an
operation, he said.

But ISAF forces were not able to notify
Pakistani officers about the helicopter strikes until after the
operation, he said, without offering more details.

“I think I
can say that clearly in these instances things didn’t occur in the way
that they’re supposed to. And that’s what we’re trying to get to,” he
said.

ISAF, which is battling Taliban militants in Afghanistan,
said in an earlier statement that the helicopters went after insurgents
in Pakistan after an Afghan security forces’ outpost in Khost province
came under attack on Friday.

The choppers fired on the
militants, killing more than 30 insurgents, ISAF said, and two
helicopters returned to the border area on Saturday and killed several
more.

The US military’s presence in Afghanistan and its covert
drone strikes in the border tribal belt are subject to fierce criticism
and suspicion in Pakistan.

The rare NATO cross-border attacks
came amid a surge in drone strikes in the northwest, which is
considered a safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaida-linked operatives.

Pakistani security officials said Tuesday that al-Qaida’s operational
chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan had been killed in a U.S.
bombardment by an unmanned aircraft.

Though Washington talks of
taking the fight to al-Qaida, the U.S. government does not openly
discuss the drone bombing campaign, which is reportedly run by the
Central Intelligence Agency.
Pakistan also reportedly cooperates with the drone strikes.