The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan has ordered an investigation into the helicopter firing that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead and 13 injured in the early hours of Saturday. The investigation was ordered by ISAF Commander John Allen as an “incensed'' Pakistan weighed its options amid growing attacks on its soil from Afghanistan mostly by insurgents and this time by international security forces themselves.

According to Pakistan, the helicopter attack on its border posts — located nearly 2.5 km from the border with Afghanistan — was totally unprovoked as there were no reports of any terrorist activity in the area. ISAF spokesman Carsten Jacobson told the BBC from Kabul that the incident took place when close air support was sent in on request by ground forces — a combined group drawn from coalition forces and Afghan troops — to the Eastern Kunar area of Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan.

Without going into details of what kind of operation was being undertaken in Eastern Kunar, Brigadier General Jacobson said the troops were operating in a very rugged part of the country.

“It is in a part of the country where the borderline is not 100 per cent clear. The Durand Line does not show 100 per cent the border on the ground. The forces were operating in Afghanistan. The investigation has to come out with details of what happened on the ground and we need time for that.''

About the threats coming from Pakistan that the incident could have repercussions on the cooperation Islamabad is giving to the coalition forces in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Jacobson said: “It is important that in this part of the country where terrorists use the border and the uncertainty of the border in their favour that all three sides involved — the Afghan government, the Pakistan government and the international coalition forces — work as closely together as they possibly can to fight terrorism.''

Stand-off

Last autumn, a similar NATO helicopter firing at a Frontier Corps checkpost had resulted in a prolonged stand-off between Pakistan and the U.S./ISAF during which time trucks ferrying supplies through Pakistani territory to coalition forces in Afghanistan were not allowed to cross over.

This time, with the men killed being personnel of the Pakistani Army, the pressure on the government is mounting to stop cooperation to the war on terror.

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