Islamabad, Sept 17 : Taking a strong exception to the highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by US commandos near the Angoor Ada town, the Pakistan Army has reportedly ordered its forces to open fire at US troops if they launch another air or ground raid from across the Afghan border.
According to a Pakistan Army spokesman, the orders are certain to "heighten tensions" between Washington and Islamabad as far as the fight against terrorism is concerned. Although the ground attack was rare, there have been repeated reports of US drone aircraft striking militant targets, the latest being on Sept. 12.
However, the Pentagon hoped that Islamabad will "correct the record" of the volatile statement, even as its spokesman Bryan Whitman said that Pakistan was an ally in the global war on terror, and that the US enjoys "good cooperation with Pakistan along the border".
According to CBSNews, Pakistani officials warn that stepped-up cross-border raids will accomplish little while fueling violent religious extremism in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Some complain that the country is a scapegoat for the failure to stabilize Afghanistan.
Pakistan's civilian leaders who have taken a hard line against Islamic militants since forcing Pervez Musharraf to resign as president last month, have insisted that Pakistan must resolve the dispute with Washington through diplomatic channels.
However, army spokesman Athar Abbas said that after US helicopters ferried troops into a militant stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal region, the military told field commanders to prevent any similar raids. "The orders are clear. In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire," Abbas said in an interview.
US military commanders accuse Islamabad of doing too little to prevent the Taliban and other militant groups from recruiting, training and resupplying in Pakistan's wild tribal belt.
Pakistan acknowledges the presence of al Qaeda fugitives and its difficulties in preventing militants from seeping through the mountainous border into Afghanistan. However, it insists it is doing what it can and paying a heavy price, pointing to its deployment of more than one lakh troops in its increasingly restive northwest and a wave of suicide bombings across the country.