Pakistan fires on U.S. helicopters
October 3, 2008
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The search for terrorists in the Middle East ran into trouble this week as conflicting reports came in of Pakistani fire on U.S. helicopters. U.S. officials believe Osama bin Laden and other terrorists linked to al-Qaeda may be located near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. On Sept. 21, U.S. helicopters entered the area and, according to some intelligence officials, were fired upon by Pakistani border patrols.
Washington officials denied the claims.
“There was no such incursion; there was no such event,” Defense Department spokesman Colonel Gary L. Keck said in a press release.
The confusion as to what happened may be due to unclear borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The U.S. military placed their helicopters one mile into the Afghanistan border, while other reports placed them up to a mile within the Pakistan border.
On Sept. 25, there was another report of fire on U.S. helicopters at a Pakistani outpost. Washington did not deny this report.
“The (helicopters) did not return fire but the (American) ground forces fired suppressive fire at that outpost. The Pakistani forces then returned that fire. The whole exchange lasted about five minutes,” said an official with U.S. Central Command, according to Reuters. An unclear border was cited as the problem once again.
“The flight path of the helicopters at no point took them over Pakistan,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, according Reuters. “The Pakistanis have to provide us with a better understanding of why this took place.”
Pakistan’s newly elected president, Asif Ali Zardari, stands by the decisions to fire on the helicopters.
“Just as we will not let Pakistan’s territory be used by terrorists for attacks against our people and our neighbors, we cannot allow our territory and our sovereignty to be violated by our friends,” Zardari said during a meeting with President George W. Bush in New York this week, according to NBC News.
These two incidents occurred only a few days after a terrorist attack on a Marriot hotel in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. A truck bomb exploded outside of the hotel, killing 53 people. The group claiming responsibility for the attack called for an end to Pakistani and U.S. relations.
The relationship between the United States and Pakistan may have been shaken in light of the recent events, but neither side will be breaking ties. After a meeting with Zardari on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a positive outlook on aiding Pakistan’s fight against terrorism.
“We talked about how we might assist Pakistan in doing what it needs to do, but I think there is a very strong commitment (from Pakistan),” said Rice, according to The Associated Press. “And after all, it is the same enemy.”
In an interview with NBC, Zardari welcomed U.S. intelligence aid but not troops.
“Give us the intelligence and we will do the job,” he said. “It’s better done by our forces than yours.