By Gobby Wang
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2011-12-01 11:07 AM
Pakistan is still outraged by the soldiers' deaths and has retaliated by closing its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies, demanding the U.S. vacate an air base used by American drones and boycotting an international conference aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan.
But NATO said Islamabad communicated with the alliance to prevent an exchange of fire over the border late Tuesday from turning into another international incident.
U.S. forces received mortar and recoilless rifle fire from an area just inside the Pakistan border, said U.S. spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura. U.S. forces returned fire in self-defense while confirming with the Pakistani military that it wasn't involved. No damage or casualties were reported by the U.S. or Pakistan, he said.
German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a NATO spokesman in Kabul, expressed hope that Pakistan's cooperation in resolving the incident in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia province signaled the two sides could recover from the recent tragedy.
"We are continuing operations and it is of great importance that the incidents of Saturday, as tragic as they were, do not disrupt our capability to operate in the border area and cooperate with the Pakistani side," said Jacobson.
Pakistani and American officials have offered different accounts of how NATO aircraft attacked two Pakistan army posts before dawn Saturday. But it seems clear that a breakdown in communication contributed to the tragedy.
According to U.S. military records described to The Associated Press, the incident occurred when a joint U.S. and Afghan patrol requested backup after being hit by mortar and small arms fire by Taliban militants. Before responding, the joint U.S.-Afghan patrol first checked with the Pakistani army, which reported it had no troops in the area, the military account said.
"In no way, shape or form should this be construed as an intentional attack on Pakistan by the United States. That is simply incorrect," Little told reporters in Washington.
The Pakistan army on Wednesday released photographs and video of the posts that were attacked in the Mohmand tribal area. The images show small, damaged structures made out of stacked gray stones perched on a steep, barren mountain ridge. A white flag flew next to one of the posts.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have long had a strained relationship even though the two countries have ethnic and cultural similarities. Islamabad is angry at Kabul because the NATO aircraft that carried out the strikes that killed its soldiers were based in Afghanistan.
"Afghan land has been used against Pakistan, and we are protesting against this," Gilani told reporters in the southern city of Karachi. "We don't want the land of our brother country, which is like a twin, to be used against Pakistan."