The US Defense Department has denied that its helicopters flew into Pakistan’s airspace above from across the border with Afghanistan Sept. 22. Pakistani intelligence officials say US two helicopters flew into North Waziristan, but returned to Afghanistan after troops and tribesmen opened fire. “There was no such incursion, there was no such event,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. Gary Keck. Anonymous Pakistani sources said the incursion took place near Lwara Mundi village late on Sept. 21. Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari told NBC that the US was forbidden from allowing any operations without permission. “If the American troops are coming in without letting us know, without the Pakistani permission, they are violating the United Nations charter.” (AlJazeera, Sept. 23)
The incursion report comes as President Zardari, in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, said he will plead with President Bush to halt cross-border raids, which are being blamed for the terrorist attack on the Islamabad Marriott. “We hope the US will change policy because this is what is needed,” said Pakistan’s ambassador to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hassan. He said the Bush administration’s decision to allow cross-border incursions has been counterproductive “because they are not killing high-value targets, they are killing civilians.” (The Independent, Sept. 23)
See our last post on Pakistan.
Yankee drone down in Waziristan?
The Pakistani military said Sept. 24 a pilotless aircraft that crashed in South Waziristan had been recovered, but the Pentagon denied any US drone had been lost in the area. Other countries with troops in the NATO-led force in neighboring Afghanistan use unmanned aerial vehicles, but the US is the only one known to fly them inside Pakistan. Britain also said none of its aircraft were missing. The US military did say one of its drones had gone down with engine problems in Paktika province of eastern Afghanistan, about 60 miles west of the Pakistani border on Sept. 23, but had been immediately recovered the aircraft. (Reuters, Sept. 24)
Pakistani media reports claim that tribal militiamen had shot down the drone outside Angor Adda, near the village of Jalal Khel, three kilometers from the Afghan border. “Tribesmen picked it up and then Pakistani security forces retrieved it. No firing was heard in the area so there is no question of it being shot down,” an anonymous Pakistani official told AFP. (AlJazeera, Sept. 24)