US helicopters kill 28 Pakistani troops on Afghan border


US attack helicopters killed 28 Pakistani troops manning a border outpost along the Afghan border, according to Pakistani military officials. Pakistan has retaliated by closing the vital Khyber Pass to NATO supply trucks.

The US helicopters struck an outpost in the Baizai area of the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of Mohmand, Pakistani officials said. The attack took place at the Salala check post, which is just over a mile from the border with Afghanistan.

“NATO helicopters carried out an unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on a Pakistani check post in Mohmand agency, casualties have been reported and details are awaited,” a Pakistani military spokesman told Reuters. Up to 28 Pakistan troops, including two officers, are said to have been killed and 11 more have been wounded, Dawn reported.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was aware of reports of US helicopters engaging Pakistani forces and that it was investigating.

The reported attack took place just across the border from Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar, a known stronghold of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terror groups. Afghan troops are currently conducting an operation in neighboring Nuristan province, another Taliban and al Qaeda bastion. US forces have mostly withdrawn from Kunar and Nuristan, and are relying on airstrikes and sweeps to keep the Taliban at bay.

The reason for the US attack in Mohmand is unclear. The border is unmarked and the terrain is rugged. Pakistan and Afghanistan also dispute the international border, which is known as the Durand Line.

The US has also conducted several cross-border attacks while in “hot pursuit” of Taliban forces. ISAF has maintained that it has the right to pursue retreating Taliban forces “after following the proper rules of engagement under inherent right of self defense.” [See LWJ report, Pakistan closes NATO supply route after latest US cross-border attack]

The US has pursued Taliban fighters across the border multiple times in the past. Two of the most high-profile incidents occurred in 2008, and three others took place in 2010. The first was in June 2008, when US troops pursued a Taliban force from Kunar into Mohmand, and killed 11 fighters. The Pakistani government claimed that the US killed Frontier Corps troops, but the US released video of the incident showing the Taliban being targeted as they fled from Kunar into Mohmand. Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps is known to support the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The second incident took place in Khyber in November 2008, when US forces launched rocket attacks and ground strikes into the Tirah Valley, a known haven for al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Lashkar-e-Islam. Seven people were reported killed and three were wounded in the strikes.

The last three such incidents took place in the fall of 2010, when US helicopters attacked Haqqani Network fighters crossing back into the Pakistani tribal agencies of North Waziristan and Kurram after the terror group attacked US bases in Khost and Paktia provinces. More than 50 Haqqani Network fighters were reported killed in the Kurram attacks. Pakistan claimed two Frontier Corps troops were killed.

The US incursions into Pakistan have infuriated the country’s military establishment. The Pakistani government closed the Khyber Pass, one of the two key crossing routes for NATO supplies, for 10 days after the attacks in 2010. 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 the cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The border crossing was reopened on Oct. 9 after top US generals, including ISAF commander General David Petraeus, and US officials apologized for the cross-border strikes.

The US also launches covert airstrikes using unmanned Predators and Reapers against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

In addition, the US carried out a unilateral special operations raid in May deep into Pakistani territory and killed Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Abbottabad, which was not far from Pakistan’s top military academy.

Note: this article has been updated to reflect new casualty figures and Pakistan’s closing of the Khyber Pass.

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

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  • Neo says:

    This wasn’t needed, but unfortunately will happen when you have insurgents working across boarders. This will sour US Pakistani relations for a number of weeks at the least.
    Brings up a lot of questions.

  • Warner Wolfe says:

    Lets go to the video tape.

  • Paul D says:

    Most likely fed up of Pak border guards providing cover for fleeing taliban/Haqquani militants!

  • Scott says:

    I have a feeling this will not turn out to be a case of mistaken identity. I suspect that the “Frontier Corps” actually were the taliban, or the taliban retreated to the safety of a Frontier Corps base/checkpoint, or the Frontier Corps opened fire on the helicopters. Something along those lines I suspect.
    It would also be interesting to know whether or not ISAF humbly apologizes for their “mistake” (even if it really wasn’t a mistake), just to allow the Pakistanis to save face and to preserve the illusion of cooperation between the two sides.
    If ISAF announces that the attack was justified, I would believe that. But I would remain skeptical if they announce that our pilots made a mistake.
    Such is life when our so-called “ally” is Pakistan.

  • yz says:

    oh the good news just keeps on coming.

  • yash says:

    28 less terrorists to contend with…..

  • Joe says:

    It’s very common for the Taliban to conduct indirect fire attacks from right on top of Pakistani army and Frontier Corps positions. The Pakistanis apparently do nothing to prevent them from firing into Afghanistan within stone throwing distance of their own positions.
    It is quite likely that ISAF was responding to exactly such an attack, and pretty difficult to feel sorry for the Pakistanis if they are foolish enough to think that they might not face exactly such an outcome when they allow these actions.

  • Observer says:

    Worst possible time for such a thing to happen. Pakistan has been going through “memogate” where the Army and ISI only stregthened their positions with regard to more western-minded civilians.
    Monumental mistake!

  • Jimbo says:

    Given the routine duplicity of the Pakistanis, I would bet that the FC or PAK Army were attacking US or ISAF troops. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before and I’ll bet we have a good idea of where the border should be. Pakistan is no “ally” of the US, particularly in the NWFP.

  • mike merlo says:

    Time to hurry up & apologize so we can get on to attacking another checkpoint/outpost

  • Charu says:

    Everything that I have read suggests that we have been extremely restrained about firing back at PakMil bases across the border who have been actively supporting the Taliban cross the border. And that the PakMil has repeatedly provided the Taliban with covering fire, logistics, supplies and medical treatment. We certainly had very good cause to attack these bases, and there must have been extreme provocation to have taken this step.
    That said, this state of mass deception on our side and on theirs is untenable. I feel deep sadness each time I see on the news the faces of the brave young men who have died because of this sustained treachery. We cannot allow them to die from a thousand small cowardly cuts from this third-rate unprofessional terrorist-supporting military that has never won at war except against unarmed civilians. Generals Kayani and Pasha and the rest of the tin-pot terrorist Generals should remember the eventual fate of other war criminals; like General Tojo!

  • jerjes talpur says:


  • rana imran says:

    Naturally, attack was sure as master slave partnership can not run for long time.

  • EMK says:

    I think the Americans are themselves the worst enemies of the US. They also know the art of converting friends into enemies. They have not able to handle Afghanistan in the war spread over a decade. Now they are looking for more enemies. Think a while, if Pakistan too joins hands with Afghanistan openly, Iran is already an open enemy of the US, where will the American forces hide in Afghanistan? This is coming up as an open challenge, self created by the Americans and now on, I don’t think they would get a safe or honorable exit from Afghanistan. They would go out humiliated.

  • Truth says:

    This situation calls for a complete investigation. The Pakistan government & people should focus their questions and concerns at NATO not the USA. America is always the target for grievances but the world always has its hand out for billions in aid & support. And then there is the matter of Pakistan’s lies or complete ineptness regarding the world’s greatest terrorist Bin Ladin. I strongly believe key Pakistani leaders knew he was there and harbored him. They just could not believe we would successfully find and deal with him. Get out in 15 days? Cut off all aid in 14 days!

  • Tahir Ali says:

    Announcement of exit strategy by US Administration, induction of 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, their failure to deliver, frustration of US leadership, the Abbotabad incident, increased Taliban activity in Afghanistan, aggressive posturing by USA blaming Pakistan Army and ISI for supporting the Haqqani Net Work and now attack on the Pakistani post. Thus, within a span of a few months, the so-called allies in ‘war on terror’ are at logger’s head with each other. Whether incidental or planned, the synergy of events is astounding and the inevitable has started to happen, as in the late eighties, giving credence to the widely held perception in Pakistani masses that, owing to divergence of interests, USA cannot be trusted as a long term partner. People of Pakistan in general are agitated and outraged by the turn of events. The situation is likely to get out of control unless both sides show restraint and the leaders act with prudence. Strained relations between USA and Pakistan would only benefit Al Qaeda.

  • CC says:

    My guess is that the good ole Frontier Boys were up to no good.

  • James says:

    How many times must it be emphasized that: “They that harbor terrorists must share in their fate.”?
    Pakistan is no one’s ally in the WOT (and never has been).
    We need to get with India in the WOT. We should have done so right from the get go.
    You can not win wars in the air. They must be won on the ground.
    This also proves just as I predicted many times before what is bound to happen when you over rely on air assets.
    There has to be at least a minimal footprint with boots on the ground to carry out effectively even an airstrike strategy.
    Once again, I’d like to emphasize, we need to ask this question of the current regime in power (in DC): Do our soldiers over there have the minimum resources needed to at least protect each other?

  • weaponsgrade says:

    pakistan is to blame. don’t habour souless robots.

  • Air Assault says:

    According to my understanding, both ISAF and Pakistan share exact coordinates of all border posts regularly to avoid such incidents. Then how can the NATO helicopters attack a mile inside Pak territory on a recognized post?

  • JZarris says:

    Just one opinion, but I find it highly likely that this was not a complete accident nor unwelcomed by high ranking members of the Pakistani military establishment. The fact that this is coming just days from Husain Haqqani’s departure from the US plays perfectly into the hands of PK military hawks looking to foreclose on any serious cooperation with the US. Accident? Maybe. Just as likely someone in the Frontier Corps set up a situation that made it highly likely for this to occur? Even money in my book…

  • j says:

    Pakistan generals believes in their own fairy tales. Soon US will bring out their big stick and Pakistan will know what it meant to fight a superpower. If need be Pakistan will be turned into a glass parking lot.

  • Shamim Kazi says:

    I suppose , we American now should have guts to accept the failures in Afghanistan instaed of blamig
    Paksitan for its dilema. What the hack we have been doing for ten years of using and testing all the most modern war machines but the result is that
    more than 70% territory is under Taliban control.
    And here at home , on the thanks giving , we had the longest line ever , waiting to receive FREE FOOD
    Shame on us

  • phrank says:

    I think the end is near for our friendship. We made it clear to them in 2001 what it would mean had they chosen wrongly and I think we are coming close to that point. I do not want a wider war but there comes a time when you have to face the truth. As for threats about what it would mean for us. I wonder how many there wonder how hard it would be to live without modern things like lights and clean water and bridges and railroads. What it might be like to have India right there without a airforce or navy or for that matter much of a army. We don’t need to say to them in the press what it would mean if they are not a ally I think they understand at least in the military what it would mean. So many countries talk about the US being warmongers and yet do they know that if we decided that their countries would gone. We wouldn’t even need nikes as so many think. We have a great many bombs and know how to carpet bomb just fine. Look at some WW2 pictures and see the way things used to be done before we got all civilized.

  • Jean says:

    The Border Posts are closer than a mile and situated at the end of the passes. Frontier troops rarely patrol their AO. Known infil/exfil routes run very close to the posts. I think they caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

  • mike Burk says:

    The good news is with Pakistan closing their welcome wagon to the USA we can be more agressive at the border and return fire at will with little regard to diplomacy.

  • Observer says:

    It may also be that this was a deliberate message form the US to Pakistani military – “”memogate” or not, you pay attention to what we say and do!”.
    An act that is called coercion.

  • Croaton says:

    The obvious lesson here is that if you give safe harbor, comfort, or AID to United States enemies, then you are NOT our ally and you will suffer the same fate as the terrorists and the taliban. Period!

  • analyse says:

    A rogue airforce….
    Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned a NATO airstrike that reportedly killed seven civilians, mostly children- VOA news
    Afghanistan: Students Protest U.S. Presence
    The President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai is demanding an end to all US and NATO airstrikes in his country. He says more than 100 civilians were ‘definitely’ killed this week by US airstrikes and not Taliban insurgents.

  • Zeissa says:

    everyone knows Karzai is nothing but lies.
    He’s just another drug peddler the Amies put in charge because they can’t handle the responsibilities that come with Empire.

  • Raja says:

    hmm well i guess NOW our army should attack the american airbases and get revenge…RIP soldiers of our nation.


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