- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Pakistan and the United States have agreed that hot pursuits of suspected Taliban and al Qaeda fighters across the Pakistani-Afghan border will continue, but quietly.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spoke twice since Dec. 29, when a clash between U.S. and Pakistani troops in the South Waziristan tribal agency strained relations between the two allies.
They agreed that troops on the ground would react according to the situation but neither side would issue a statement without consulting the other, diplomatic sources said.
"This means that if a situation requires a hot pursuit, it will be done, but there will be no angry remarks from either side, as we saw after the December 29 incident," said a Washington-based diplomat.
In Pakistan, the clash caused angry protests in several cities against U.S. forces, while U.S. military officials insisted they reserved the right to cross the border while pursuing fugitives.
Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are believed to cross freely between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. U.S.-backed forces toppled Afghanistan's Taliban in November 2001. Since then, U.S. and Pakistani troops have pursued remaining elements of the militia and its al Qaeda backers.
The man who apparently caused the Dec. 29 encounter a soldier of the Pakistani border scout organization was taken into Pakistan's custody along with two others who also exchanged fire with U.S. troops, the sources said.
An American soldier injured in the fight was moved to a U.S. military hospital in Germany and later was released from hospital care.
"The way the incident was reported in the media caused some angry reactions in Pakistan," a diplomatic source said. "Otherwise, there's nothing new about these hot pursuits."
He said both U.S. and Pakistani forces have crossed the porous border in the past.
"The Americans have their men on the Pakistani side and the Pakistanis have their men on the Afghan side," he said. "There are Pakistani military officials, even at Bagram air base near Kabul."
The clash, the sources said, was caused by a misunderstanding about an outpost in South Waziristan. Some maps show the post in Pakistan while others place it in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani soldier who opened fire at an American patrol apparently told his interrogators that he challenged the Americans when he saw them approaching the post because he thought they were entering his jurisdiction.
The Americans, who believed they were on the Afghan side, asked the soldier to retreat. Because the soldier was armed, they also pointed their weapons at him, a standard military practice in such situations.
The soldier said he got nervous and opened fire. When the Americans fired back, he rushed to a nearby abandoned school, where two other soldiers joined him.

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