Pak air defence weapons on Afghan border
The decision to deploy air defence weapons was made as the country re-evaluates its strategy for safeguarding its western borders from air raids, the Pakistan Army`s Director General of Military Operations, Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem Ahmed, told the federal cabinet and the Senate`s Standing Committee on Defence during briefings yesterday.
"After the November 26 NATO attack on two military check posts in the Mohmand Agency, we fear an attack from the western border. Hence a decision has been taken to deploy air defence weapons in that region," a participant of one of the briefings told the Dawn newspaper. Pakistan closed all NATO supply routes and asked the US to vacate the Shamsi airbase by December 11 following the air strike.
The DGMO said the army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, had given troops full liberty to retaliate to any further attacks without prior approval of the top command. He said that Pakistan border posts were currently equipped with small weapons suitable for fighting insurgents and bunkers had been built.
Ahmed said the coordination mechanism between Pakistani and NATO forces had been "completely violated" and there were reasons to believe that the air strike was a "planned attack, and not a mistake". Ahmed said Pakistan had recalled 19 of its 31 officers from border coordination centres for "consultations".
Another participant of the briefings said Ahmed pointed out that the commander of International Security Assistance Force, Gen John Allen, had met Kayani on November 26, hours before the border posts were attacked by NATO aircraft. He said when the matter was taken up with Allen the next day, he expressed ignorance.
"According to him (Allen) no such attack was planned, giving rise to speculations that certain operations are conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Special Operation Forces on their own and about which NATO and ISAF are kept in the dark," Ahmed was quoted as saying.
Explaining the sequence of events, Ahmed said a post code- named Volcano was first attacked by two NATO helicopter gunships at 12.15 am on November 26. A nearby check post, code-named Boulder, hit back with 12.7 mm anti-aircraft weapons and mortars after the first attack.
Ahmed said the army`s General Headquarters learnt of the incident at 12.35 am. Subsequently, Boulder post too was attacked and all communication with both posts was snapped. Minutes before the disruption, the company commander left for the posts to assess the situation. This officer lost his life after the helicopters re-engaged the posts.
Another officer sent later saved his life by sheltering in a bunker when he saw the helicopters. He said the entire operation lasted almost two hours. Ahmed said the two posts were located at a place from where there had been no cross-border infiltration, though militant attacks from the Afghan side had been frequent.
The two posts, he said, could not be mistaken for militant havens as the Afghan side had been given all information about the number of Pakistani posts and their locations.
The DGMO further said the Pakistan Army believed that NATO was monitoring radio transmissions that night and knew they had hit Volcano post. Ahmed was quoted as saying that misleading information was provided to the Pakistan military from the outset.
Just before the air strike, a Pakistani officer at the regional tactical centre was informed by an American sergeant that US Special Forces had received indirect fire from Gora Pai, 15 km from Volcano post. And after seven minutes, a woman officer informed him that the firing had come from Volcano, which had been hit in retaliation.
"It is not the first incident of its kind and in recent years it already has happened thrice," Ahmed was quoted as saying. In reply to a question, he said joint investigations had been carried out in the past but vital information that could have helped reach a conclusion was never shared.