Pakistani forces ordered to ‘open fire’ on US forces crossing the border

The Pakistani military has been given orders to “open fire” on US troops crossing the border from Afghanistan to attack Taliban and al Qaeda safe havens, the military’s spokesman said. The order comes one day after Pakistani troops reportedly fired on US helicopters as they attempted to cross the border in South Waziristan.

The order to target US troops crossing the border was communicated by Major General Athar Abbas, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military.

“The orders are clear,” Abbas told The Associated Press. “In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire.”

Abbas later backtracked on his statement in an interview with the BBC. “He stressed to the BBC that no specific orders had been given to open fire if US troops crossed the border from Afghanistan,” the BBC reported. Pentagon spokesman Brian Whitman told the AP that Pakistan would “correct the record” on the order to fire on US forces. No subsequent statements have been made by the Pakistani military.

The order to fire on US forces is the latest measure by Pakistan to protest recent attacks by the US inside its territory. Pakistan closed the vital Torkham border crossing into Afghanistan to NATO traffic on Sept. 6 to send a message to the US, Mukhtar said. The crossing was reopened the next day. The Pakistani Air Force is said to have begun to patrol the tribal areas over the weekend.

Today’s statements come one day after a reported incident along the Pakistani border in South Waziristan. Pakistani troops reportedly fired on two US helicopters as they attempted to cross the border near Angoor Adda in South Waziristan. The Pakistani military made conflicting statements on the incident, with some officers claiming “local tribesmen” opened fired and others claiming the military participated.

The US military denied any incursion occurred. “I’ve checked into that and find it to be a spurious report,” Whitman said in a press conference on Sept. 14. “Did not happen. I’ve checked all the places that would know about something like that and it doesn’t appear to be accurate.”

But Whitman’s statements amounted to a personal denial of not being able to find out about the incident. “(I) cannot find any mission that correlates to the report I saw out of Pakistan,” Whitman said, according to Reuters. “I can’t find any (military) report of helicopters being fired upon.”

US military and intelligence sources contacted by The Long War Journal refused to comment on yesterday’s incident.

The US has stepped up attack in Pakistan’s tribal areas this year after the Taliban and al Qaeda consolidated control in the tribal regions and settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. There have been eight recorded cross-border strikes since Aug. 31. There have been 16 recorded cross-border attacks in Pakistan in 2008, compared to 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined.

Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in the attacks. The Haqqani Network, the powerful al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group run by Jalaluddin and Siraj Haqqani, has been heavily targeted as well.

Bill Roggio :Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.