Pakistan deplores Nato air strikes - IRISH TIMES, 280910

Pakistan deplores Nato air strikes

MATTHEW GREEN and FARHAN BOKHARI in Islamabad

PAKISTAN HAS denounced rare strikes on its territory by Nato helicopters based in Afghanistan that killed dozens of suspected militants.

The incursions have further complicated Washington’s fraught alliance with Islamabad at a time when President Barack Obama’s administration is pressing Pakistan to do more to support its Afghan campaign.

Isaf, the Nato-led force in Afghanistan, said helicopters had crossed into Pakistan in pursuit of militants twice over the weekend. It said 49 suspected fighters were killed in the first attack on Pakistani soil and at least four in the second. Pakistani officials put the toll at more than 60.

Isaf did not identify the nationality of the aircraft, but the Apache and Kiowa helicopters reported to have been involved in the incidents were almost certainly from the US, which uses these types in Afghanistan.

US officials say they have an agreement with Islamabad that allows Nato forces to cross a short distance over the border in pursuit of militants, which often stage attacks from havens in Pakistan. Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied the existence of such an accord.

“Pakistan has strongly protested to Isaf/Nato on the two incidents of aerial engagements from the Afghanistan side into Pakistani territory,” it said. “Such violations are unacceptable.”

The incident runs the risk of aggravating sensitivities in Pakistan, where suspicions of US motives run high.

Pakistani officials reacted angrily last week to revelations in a book by Bob Woodward, the veteran US journalist, that a 3,000-strong secret army of Afghan paramilitary forces run by the Central Intelligence Agency had conducted cross-border raids into Pakistan. The book, Obama’s Wars , documents divisions in the US administration over Afghan policy. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010