NATO forces in Afghanistan launched two airstrikes against Taliban fighters on the Pakistani side of the border, killing more than 30 people on Sept. 24 and 25, military spokesmen confirmed. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) initially denied that its forces had launched the airstrikes, although they were confirmed by Afghan police officials. On Sept. 27, however, a statement from ISAF confirmed the attacks. Initially, a base close to the border in Khost province, known as Combat Outpost Narizah, came under fire from insurgents. When what ISAF described as an “air weapons team” responded, they came under fire from the insurgents across the border in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area, and returned fire. When two ISAF helicopters returned to the area the next day, they were again fired on from the Pakistani side of the border, and again returned fire.
The Khost provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Hakim Isahqzai, put the death toll among the insurgents at 82 or higher. There have been no complaints of civilian casualties. US Capt. Ryan Donald, a spokesman for ISAF, justified the attack as an act of “self-defense,” within the rules of engagement. Pakistani media said the fighters targeted in the raid were from the Haqqani network. (BBC News, NYT, RFE/RL, Sept. 27)
Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the incursions as a “clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates,” saying it had made a formal protest to NATO. “In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options,” said Abdul Basit, the ministry spokesman.
“This should be considered a watershed event,” said Mehmood Shah, identified as a top security official for the tribal area. “They [NATO] must be warned: the next time you do this, it can lead to war. Our units should be deployed to fire upon them. This border has sanctity. NATO must realize they have a mandate to operate in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.” (The Guardian, Sept. 27)
Meanwhile, militants in Pakistan torched at least four oil tankers carrying fuel supplies to US-led forces in Afghanistan on Sept. 26. Two armed men riding a motorcycle set two trucks ablaze on a highway in Balochistan’s Kalat district. A driver was reportedly killed in the attack. Another tanker was destroyed in Khuzdar and the fourth was blown up in the border town of Torkham in Khyber Agency. Hundreds of vehicles carrying supplies for US-led forces in Afghanistan have been destroyed in Pakistan over the last three years. (Press TV, Sept. 26)