Sunday, February 11, 2007

always justified with 'self-defence'; where ever, who ever

U.S. artillery in Afghanistan fired into Pakistan in self-defence: commander
Feb 11, 2007

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AP) -
Asserting a right to self-defence, U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan fired artillery rounds into Pakistan to strike Taliban fighters who attack remote outposts, the commander of U.S. forces in the region said.

The skirmishes are politically sensitive because Pakistan's government, regarded by the U.S. administration as an important ally against Islamic extremists, has denied it allows U.S. forces to strike inside its territory.

The use of the largely ungoverned Waziristan area of Pakistan as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters has become a greater irritant between Washington and Islamabad since Pakistan put in place a peace agreement there in September that was intended to stop cross-border incursions.

U.S. army Col. John Nicholson said in an interview rather than halt such incursions, the peace deal has led to a substantial increase.

Pakistani border forces, which had been active in stopping Taliban incursions into Afghanistan as recently as last spring, stopped offensive actions against them once the peace deal took effect, he said.

"That did relax some of the pressure on the enemy," Nicholson said.

The Pakistani army's top spokesman said Sunday coalition forces operating in Afghanistan are not allowed to fire into Pakistani territory but acknowledged artillery fire from the coalition had landed inside Pakistan in recent days.

Maj.-Gen. Shaukat Sultan also said Pakistan would seek clarification of the U.S. military official's statement.

Nicholson described the fighting along the border, particularly in Afghanistan's Paktika and Khost provinces, as intense. In some cases, he said, the Taliban have crossed the border at night, using wire-cutters to breach the perimeter of small U.S. outposts, "trying to get hand grenades into our bunkers."

"I mean we're talking World War I type of stuff," Nicholson said.

"These are some very sharp, intense fights" initiated by an enemy he described as resilient and undeterred by superior U.S. firepower.

"They'll keep coming back," he said.

When Taliban forces on the Pakistan side of the border fire on U.S. outposts on the Afghan side, the Americans are equipped to quickly pinpoint the launch location using radar and then strike back with artillery, he said.

"We do not allow the enemy to fire with impunity on our soldiers and we have the inherent right of self-defence," he said, speaking by video teleconference from his headquarters at Jalalabad air field.

He added later: "We do fire missions across the border."