- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. coalition officials are disputing Pakistani charges that the United States made an “unprovoked” attack that killed 11 Pakistani troops in Pakistani territory.

The incident Tuesday night took place in Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal region, according to Pakistani officials quoted by wire service reports from the capital, Islamabad.

“The senseless use of air power against a Pakistani border post by coalition forces is totally unacceptable,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry also summoned U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson to explain the attack, Reuters news agency reported.

The U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force denied the Pakistani account, saying the operation had been previously coordinated with the Pakistani government.

“Coalition forces were engaged by anti-Afghan forces in Konar province on Tuesday during an operation that had been previously coordinated with Pakistan,” U.S. officials said in a statement released from Bagram air field in Afghanistan.

“Coalition forces began receiving small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from an unknown number of anti-Afghan forces approximately 200 meters [yards] inside Konar province. Coalition forces returned fire in self-defense. … At no time did Coalition ground forces cross into Pakistan.”

Shortly after the attack began, Coalition forces informed the Pakistan Army that they were being engaged by anti-Afghan forces in a wooded area near the Gorparai checkpoint, said First Lt. Nathan Perry, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force.

Coalition officials said that at that same time, an unmanned aerial system also identified anti-Afghan forces firing at coalition forces.

“In self-defense, coalition forces fired artillery rounds at the militants,” the statement went on to say.

The use of an unmanned aerial system allowed coalition forces to identify additional anti-Afghan forces joining the attack, the U.S. military said.

“While maintaining positive identification of the enemy, close-air support was then used by coalition forces to gain fire superiority until the threat was eliminated,” the statement said.

Pakistan Army officials said the airstrike resulted in the death of 11 Pakistani troops and condemned it as an act of aggression within Pakistan´s border that “hit at the very basis of cooperation” in the war on terrorism.

Military officials in the region have been seeing an increased presence of Taliban insurgents along the eastern and southern border with Pakistan.

U.S. officials have also noticed a growing presence of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan´s tribal areas since Pakistan’s recently elected government signed a peace accord with tribal leaders.

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