NATO changes stance over cross-border air raids after protest by Pakistan

Islamabad, Sep 28 (ANI): NATO has changed its stance on staging aerial strikes by its helicopter gunships inside Pakistan, following Islamabad's warning of counter-measures against the US-led forces in Afghanistan.

According to military sources, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which had earlier defended their aerial engagement as an action 'under the right of self-defence', later informed the Pakistani commanders that they were trying to establish that their helicopters during the operation did not enter Pakistani territory, the Dawn reported.

Earlier, ISAF spokesman Captain Ryan Donald had said, "The ISAF helicopters did cross into Pakistan territory to engage the insurgents. ISAF maintains the right to self-defence, and that's why they crossed the Pakistan border."

However, describing the cross-border air raids as 'violation of its sovereignty and the UN mandate for coalition operations in Afghanistan', Pakistan Foreign Office issued a statement saying: "In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options."

"These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates," stated Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit.

NATO was asked to coordinate its actions with Pakistan military and avoid crossing the 'red lines' - a euphemism for Pakistani sensitivities.

Over fifty people, a majority of them believed to be fighters of the Haqqani network, were killed over the past couple of days in three NATO/ISAF air strikes in Pakistani tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

About twenty drone strikes have taken place in September so far - the highest for a month since the Americans started using drones inside Pakistan in 2004. (ANI)

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