ISLAMABAD: Trucks and oil tankers were stopped at the border post of Torkham just north of Peshawar and it was unclear when the post would reopen, a Pakistani security official said. A closure of the crossing through which NATO and American troops receive most of their non-lethal equipment is rare, and signaled a downturn in the military relationship between Pakistan and the United States just three months before the Obama administration takes stock of progress in Afghanistan.
A NATO helicopter attacked a border post at Mandati Kandaw, a town close to the capital of Parachinar in the Kurram area of Pakistan’s tribal region, at 5 a.m. on Thursday, the official said. Three paramilitary soldiers of the Frontier Corps were killed, and three others injured, he said. Another border post at Kharlachi in the Kurram region was struck a few hours later, the official added. The two posts are about 15 miles apart and border Paktia Province in Afghanistan.
The incident occurred as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, was in Islamabad for a previously scheduled visit. He was expected to meet the head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, later on Thursday, American officials said. The helicopter attacks into Pakistani territory Thursday came after American military helicopters launched three airstrikes last weekend killing more than 50 people suspected of being members of the Haqqani network of militants.
American officials in Afghanistan tried to temper Pakistani anger about those attacks, saying that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and had acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan. American military commanders say they have become increasingly frustrated at the tempo of deadly attacks against American troops in Afghanistan by the Haqqani militants who shelter in Pakistan’s tribal region.
Meanwhile NATO said Thursday it was investigating claims by Pakistani security officials that three of their soldiers were killed in a cross-border attack by coalition helicopters based in Afghanistan.
“Early this morning, a coalition force observed what they believed was a group of insurgents attempting to fire mortars at a coalition base in the border area of Dand Patan district, Paktiya province,” NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in statement to media. “A coalition air weapons team was called for fire support and engaged the insurgents, “The team reported they did not cross into Pakistan airspace and believed the insurgent location was on the Afghan side of the border.”
After being informed by Pakistan military officials that their border forces had been hit, ISAF said it was working with the Pakistanis “to ascertain if the two events are linked”.”The matter remains under investigation,” it said. Pakistani security officials said the incident took place in Mandati Kandaw village northwest of Parachinar, the main town of Kurram district close to the Afghan border in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt.-SANA