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Pakistan reviews U.S., NATO ties after strike killed 26 soldiers
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 570 days ago | Monday, 28th November , 2011 , 00:33 [am] | International
|.|| Television stations showed the coffins of the soldiers draped in green and white Pakistani flags in a prayer ceremony at the headquarters of the regional command in Peshawar attended by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
Earlier Pakistan sealed
Pakistan said 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 U.S. ties into deeper crisis.
Television stations showed the coffins of the soldiers draped in green and white Pakistani flags in a prayer ceremony at the headquarters of the regional command in Peshawar attended by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
Earlier Pakistan sealed its Afghan border to NATO, shutting down a supplies lifeline for some 130,000 U.S.-led foreign troops fighting the Taliban, and called on the United States to leave a secretive air base reportedly used by CIA drones.
Islamabad protested to NATO and the United States in the strongest terms â€“ summoning U.S. ambassador Cameron Munter, branding the strike a violation of international law and warning there could be serious repercussions.
The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan admitted it was â€œhighly likelyâ€ that the forceâ€™s aircraft caused the deaths before dawn on Saturday, inflaming U.S.-Pakistani relations still reeling from the May killing of Osama bin Laden.
NATO and U.S. officials expressed regret about the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers, indicating the attack may have been an error; but the exact circumstances remained unclear.
NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had written to Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to express regret over the â€œtragicâ€ deaths.
â€œI have written… to make it clear that the deaths of Pakistani personnel are as unacceptable and deplorable as the deaths of Afghan and international personnel,â€ he said in a statement. â€œThis was a tragic unintended incident.â€
Earlier Sunday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar telephoned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to convey a â€œdeep sense of rageâ€ as top military commanders led joint funerals for the dead soldiers.
Khar said attacks on military outposts were â€œtotally unacceptableâ€ as they contravened international law and violated Pakistani sovereignty.
She spoke to Clinton to inform her of decisions taken at an emergency meeting of cabinet ministers and military chiefs, which has seen Pakistan seal its Afghan border to NATO supply trucks and order a review of relations.
â€œThe foreign minister conveyed to the secretary of state, the deep sense of rage felt across Pakistan at the senseless loss,â€ the foreign ministry said.
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan promised a full investigation and sent his condolences over any troops â€œwho may have been killedâ€ on the Afghan border with Pakistanâ€™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 U.S. 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 U.S. aid, gives the U.S.-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 U.S. commander in Afghanistan, discussed coordination with Pakistanâ€™s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
Pakistan said NATO helicopters and fighter aircraft fired â€œunprovokedâ€ 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 â€œa grave infringementâ€ of sovereignty, a â€œserious transgression of the oft-conveyed red linesâ€.
A spokesman for NATOâ€™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.
â€œClose air support was called in, in the development of the tactical situation, and it is what highly likely caused the Pakistan casualties,â€ he said.
He added he could not confirm the number of casualties, but ISAF was investigating. â€œWe are aware that Pakistani soldiers perished. We don’t know the size, the magnitude,â€ he said.
Pakistan swiftly sealed its border with Afghanistan to NATO supplies â€“ holding up convoys at the Torkham and Chaman crossings on the main overland U.S. 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 â€œundertake a complete review of all programs, activities and cooperative arrangements with U.S./NATO/ISAF, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligenceâ€.
In Afghanistan, Allen promised a thorough investigation â€œto determine the factsâ€ and extended his condolences to the loved ones of anyone who died.
Munter expressed â€œregretâ€ over any loss of life and pledged the United States would work â€œcloselyâ€ 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, U.S. 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 apologized.
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 U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan of colluding in a U.S. embassy siege in Kabul.
U.S. drones carry out routine missile attacks on Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistanâ€™s lawless tribal belt, where American officials say neutralizing Islamist 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 Pakistanâ€™s powerful military after the bin Laden raid.
His successor, Sherry Rehman, has yet to arrive in Washington.alarabiya, Voice of a Nation