The helicopter attack on Pakistan Army border posts in Mohmand tribal agency could further strain the already tense relations between Islamabad and Kabul that ran into rough weather in September following the assassination of Afghan High Peace Council chairman Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Islamabad on Sunday protested to the Afghan government about the use of its soil by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) for attacking Pakistan even as reports from Afghanistan suggest that the helicopters were called in by ground troops in Eastern Kunar when they came under fire from the Pakistani side. It was not clear whether the firing from the Pakistani side was by terrorists or security personnel.
While Pakistan's contention is that the border posts were clearly marked and the attack was unprovoked, the coalition forces point out that the unclear border demarcation on the ground was often used by terrorists to their advantage; creating problems for security personnel.
Given that this attack comes in the wake of several cross-border incursions into Pakistan from Afghanistan through the summer despite heavy coalition force presence west of the Durand Line, Pakistan was up in arms and the anger was primarily directed against the U.S.
Protest marches were held in various parts of the country including near the U.S. consulate in Karachi, even as funeral prayers were offered for the 24 soldiers killed in the attack. The combined funeral prayer organised in Peshawar before the bodies were sent to their respective native places was attended by Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the provincial leadership.
Apprehensive of attacks, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad issued an alert asking Americans to be vigilant. While the U.S. Embassy maintained it was not aware of any specific threat, employees have been advised to reduce non-essential travel and use “buddy systems” to account for the whereabouts of colleagues. As a matter of caution, the Embassy has asked some of its personnel employed outside Islamabad to return to the federal capital.
With the closure of supply lines for NATO troops in Afghanistan, trucks were lined up at the two border crossing points of Chaman in Balochistan and Torkham in the Khyber agency. The closure is not expected to affect NATO troops drastically as attackson these trucks had forced the U.S. and its allies to shift movement of bulk of non-military supplies through Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.