Cross-Border Strikes By NATO Helicopters In Pakistan

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon on Sept. 28 said recent cross-borderstrikes by NATO helicopters in Pakistan were marked by "communicationbreakdowns," as allied officers were not able to contact theirPakistani counterparts about the operation until afterward.

Pakistan on Sept. 27 denounced last week's helicopter air strikes asflouting the country's sovereignty, but the NATO-led InternationalSecurity Assistance Force (ISAF) in neighboring Afghanistan hasinsisted its troops had the right to defend themselves.

"I don't know that I'd call it a disagreement but there arecertainly discussions under way between our forces and the Pakistanisabout this particular incident," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapantold 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 ifcoalition troops must cross the border, either before or during anoperation, he said.

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

"I think Ican say that clearly in these instances things didn't occur in the waythat they're supposed to. And that's what we're trying to get to," hesaid.

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

The choppers fired on themilitants, killing more than 30 insurgents, ISAF said, and twohelicopters returned to the border area on Saturday and killed severalmore.

The US military's presence in Afghanistan and its covertdrone strikes in the border tribal belt are subject to fierce criticismand suspicion in Pakistan.

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

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

Though Washington talks oftaking the fight to al-Qaida, the U.S. government does not openlydiscuss the drone bombing campaign, which is reportedly run by theCentral Intelligence Agency.
Pakistan also reportedly cooperates with the drone strikes.

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