Conflicts strain Pakistan - U.S. relations
By Ahmed Rashid
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH - 2 Jan: LAHORE, Pakistan — Relations between Pakistan and the United States deteriorated sharply yesterday as tension rose after the weekend shooting of a U.S. soldier by a Pakistani serviceman on the Afghan border and a retaliatory bombing by a U.S. plane.
The American was shot in the head Sunday during a clash with Pakistani troops on the border. The U.S. Air Force promptly reacted by dropping a 500-pound bomb as it pursued the Pakistani patrol.
It was not clear whether the bomb landed inside Pakistani territory.
The incident caused uproar in the North West Frontier Province, which is governed by a hard-line Islamist alliance.
The provincial assembly called the air raid "a severe blow to our sovereignty and independence" and asked the Pakistani government yesterday to lodge a protest with the U.S. government "against this flagrant violation of the country's airspace."
Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the head of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party, accused Pakistani leaders of being too submissive.
"Our country is like an orphan," he said. "There was no protest. This is tragic."
Residents of the Pakistani border district of South Waziristan said that U.S. planes dropped two bombs on a madrassa, or religious school, in the small town of Angoor Adda, though there were no casualties.
A U.S. military spokesman at Bagram air base in Afghanistan said close air support was called in to pursue the border patrol troops as they fled, but one bomb was dropped and it fell inside Afghanistan.
The spokesman said U.S. and Pakistani patrols were working together at the time to blow up a cache of weapons. When the Pakistani soldier was asked to leave the area, he opened fire. The wounded soldier, whose head was grazed by a bullet, was flown to Germany for treatment.
On Dec. 21, a U.S. soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division was killed in the same area in an encounter with Taliban fighters.
U.S. officers in Kabul are becoming increasingly frustrated at Pakistan's inability to stop small groups of al Qaeda and Taliban guerrillas crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan, firing rockets on U.S. bases and then retreating back to Pakistan.
"Ninety percent of the attacks we face are coming from groups based in Pakistan, and there is very little we can do about it," said a senior U.S. military officer in Kabul.
Western intelligence sources in Kabul say Jalaluddin Haqqani, a high-ranking Taliban leader, is hiding in Pakistan's South Waziristan Province, where he is being protected by rogue Pakistani intelligence officials.
Pakistan denies the charges and says it has 60,000 troops guarding the border.
"I think the security situation in eastern Afghanistan is going to be a problem for some time to come," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a visit to Bagram late last year. Gen. Myers called for Pakistan to place more troops on the border.
Meanwhile, an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone crashed near an air base in Jacobabad in southwest Pakistan. There were no casualties.