In the early hours of Nov. 26 on the Afghan-Pakistani border, what was almost certainly a flight of U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and an AC-130 gunship killed some two dozen Pakistani servicemen at two border outposts inside Pakistan. Details remain scarce, conflicting and disputed, but the incident was known to have taken place near the border of the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar and the Mohmand agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The death toll inflicted by the United States against Pakistani servicemen is unprecedented, and while U.S. commanders and NATO leaders have expressed regret over the incident, the reaction from Pakistan has been severe.
Claims and Interests
The initial Pakistani narrative of the incident describes an unprovoked and aggressive attack on well-established outposts more than a mile inside Pakistani territory — outposts known to the Americans and ones that representatives of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had visited in the past. The attack supposedly lasted for some two hours despite distressed communications from the outpost to the Pakistani military’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi.
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The United States was quick to acknowledge that Pakistani troops were probably killed by attack aircraft providing close air support to a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol near the Kunar border, and while U.S. Marine Gen. James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, promised a high-level investigation, the United States and NATO seemed to be more interested in smoothing relations with Islamabad than endorsing or correcting initial reports about the specifics of the attack.
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