For the second time this week, the International Security Assistance Force command in Afghanistan denied that its helicopters intruded into Pakistani airspace.
Earlier today, ISAF issued a statement denying a report by Xinhua which claimed that US helicopters had crossed into the Datta Khel area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
“International Security Assistance Force is aware of a claim by the Xinhua News Agency that two NATO helicopters crossed into Pakistan’s air space today,” the press release stated. “ISAF confirmed through operational reporting and the US Embassy in Pakistan that no ISAF aircraft crossed the border and there have been no reports of injuries. ISAF was not contacted for comment prior to the publication of the Xinhua article.”
The Xinhua report claimed that two NATO attack helicopters had penetrated about one kilometer into Pakistani airspace and fired missiles into the village of Lawra Mandi, wounding three people. Dawn also reported on the incident.
“Local administration confirmed the attack, saying the three injured have been shifted to a hospital in Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan,” Xinhua claimed.
ISAF issued a similar denial on Nov. 23, when Xinhua claimed that US helicopters had entered Pakistani airspace. No missiles were reported to have been fired in the earlier incident.
The unconfirmed reports of the helicopter incursions into Pakistan take place two months after three similar incidents that led to the closure of NATO’s supply line through the Khyber Pass by the Pakistani government. At the end of September, US helicopters struck Haqqani Network forces as they carried out attacks in Afghanistan’s Khost province and then fled to their safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal agencies of Kurram and North Waziristan. In one strike, two Pakistani Frontier Corps soldiers were killed.
In protest, the Pakistani government closed the Khyber Pass, one of the two key crossing routes for NATO supplies, for 10 days. During that time, more than 200 NATO fuel tankers and supply trucks and containers were savaged in major attacks against convoys and rest stops in Baluchistan and Khyber-Paktunkwha provinces, as well as just outside of the cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
The border crossing was reopened on Oct. 9 after top US generals and officials apologized for the cross-border strikes.
The major attacks on NATO convoys stopped immediately after Pakistan reopened the Khyber Pass. Some US officials told The Long War Journal that they believed the Pakistani military either facilitated or turned a blind eye to Taliban attacks on NATO’s convoys, to punish the US for carrying out cross-border raids. The officials also said the Pakistani military wants to deflect building Western pressure on Pakistan to carry out military operations in the Taliban and al Qaeda havens in North Waziristan. [See LWJ report, Taliban torch 35 more NATO tankers in Pakistan, for more information.]
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