News / Asia

Pakistan to Reexamine Relations with US After Deadly NATO Raid

Pakistani protesters shout slogans against America and NATO in Lahore, Pakistan, November 26, 2011.
Pakistani protesters shout slogans against America and NATO in Lahore, Pakistan, November 26, 2011.
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Pakistan says it is reviewing its relations with the United States and NATO in the aftermath of a predawn cross-border airstrike Saturday on two military outposts in the country's northwest which killed at least 26 Pakistani soldiers and wounded 14 others.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and top military and government leaders discussed the situation at an emergency meeting late Saturday.

In a formal statement, they said the Pakistani government "will revisit and undertake a complete review of all programs, activities and cooperative arrangements with US/NATO/ISAF, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence."  They called for "strong and urgent action against those responsible for this aggression."

Mr. Gilani said the killings were "an attack on Pakistan's sovereignty," and his army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, condemned the attack as "blatant and unacceptable act."

Pakistan shut down all NATO supply lines through its territory to Afghanistan and ordered the United States to vacate an airbase in southwestern Baluchistan province within 15 days.  The CIA reportedly uses the Shamsi airbase for covert drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt, but the Pakistani military said in June that the United States does not operate out of that base.

The United States says Pakistan's tribal belt is a sanctuary for the Taliban, which has been fighting for 10 years against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  However, official Washington scrambled Saturday to stress how seriously U.S. officials are taking this incident.

The White House said senior U.S. civilian and military officials contacted their Pakistani counterparts "to express our condolences, our desire to work together to determine what took place, and our commitment to the U.S.-Pakistan partnership ... [of] shared interests, including fighting terrorism."

Pentagon chief Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued an unusual joint statement expressing their "deepest condolences" for the incident in Pakistan's border region.  They stressed they would would press for an immediate investigation by NATO.

U.S. officials have not given a detailed account of the raid on the Pakistani outposts, nor have they confirmed that Pakistan shut down supply lines to Afghanistan.

NATO said the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is personally paying the "highest attention" to the investigation of what happened.

NATO spokesman General Carsten Jacobson said Afghan and coalition forces were operating in the border area of eastern Afghanistan when "a tactical situation" prompted them to call in close air support.  He said it was "likely" that coalition airstrikes caused Pakistani casualties.

In Islamabad, U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to explain the incident.  Munter said he promised the U.S. would work closely with Pakistan in any investigation.

Ties between Washington and Islamabad have been unraveling since a covert U.S. commando raid on May 2 killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was hiding for years in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbotabad.  Pakistan was outraged it was not informed beforehand and angered by what it saw as a U.S. violation of its sovereignty.

In Washington, the joint Panetta-Clinton statement said the secretary of state, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, and ISAF commander General Allen "each called their Pakistani counterparts...These U.S. diplomatic and military leaders each stressed, in addition to their sympathies and a commitment to review the circumstances of the incident, the importance of the U.S.-Pakistani partnership, which serves the mutual interests of our people."

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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