Pakistan conveyed its “rage” to the United States over cross-border NATO air strikes that killed 24 soldiers, as it ordered a full-scale review of its frosty alliance with the US and NATO.
The United States, which depends on Pakistan as a vital life-line to supply 130,000 foreign troops fighting in landlocked Afghanistan, on Sunday scrambled to salvage the alliance, backing a full inquiry and expressing condolences.
Key questions remain about exactly what happened in the early hours of Saturday in Pakistan’s tribal district of Mohmand, where Pakistan says two border posts were fired upon “unprovoked”.
Investigators are likely to look at whether Afghan and American troops operating on the Afghan side of the border could have been fired upon first — whether by insurgents or Pakistani military.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar telephoned US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and conveyed a “deep sense of rage” as the military organised a joint funeral for the 24 troops who died.
Khar said attacks on military outposts were “totally unacceptable” as they contravened international law and violated Pakistani sovereignty — inflaming US-Pakistani relations still reeling from the May killing of Osama bin Laden.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Clinton issued a joint statement from Washington, offering their “deepest condolences” and backing “NATO’s intention to investigate immediately.”
Pakistan has also ordered the United States to leave the Shamsi air base within 15 days, despite reports American personnel had already the facility reportedly used as a hub for US drone strikes on militants in Pakistan.
It also said the government would “undertake a complete review of all programmes, activities and cooperative arrangements with US/NATO/ISAF, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence”.
Pakistan, battling its own Taliban insurgency in the northwest, is dependent on billions of dollars in US aid.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States have been in crisis since American troops killed bin Laden near the capital without prior warning and after a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January.