Pakistan will deploy air defence weapons on the border with Afghanistan to pre-empt fresh attacks by NATO forces in the wake of a "pre-planned" air strike that killed 24 soldiers, a top military official has said.
The decision to deploy air defence weapons was part of Pakistan's re-evaluation of its strategy for guarding its western borders against air raids, the Pakistan Army's
Director General of Military Operations, Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem Ahmed, told the cabinet and the Senate's Standing Committee on Defence during briefings yesterday.
"After the November 26 NATO attack on two military check posts in the Mohmand Agency, we fear an attack from the western border. Hence a decision has been taken to deploy air defence weapons in that region," a participant of one of the briefings told the Dawn newspaper.
Ahmed was quoted by The Express Tribune as saying that last month's air strike was part of a "pre-planned conspiracy" against Pakistan. He said he suspected the CIA and Special Forces in Afghanistan might have been behind the incident.
"We can expect more attacks from our supposed allies," Ahmed was quoted as saying during his briefing to the Senate panel. He also rejected claims by the US and NATO that the attack was unintended and the result of a misunderstanding.
During a meeting on Friday with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Kayani said the army had revamped its defence capabilities on the Afghan border to counter the "recurrence of the incursion into the Pakistan territory".
Gilani said any future attack will meet with a "detrimental response".
At Thursday's briefings, the DGMO said Pakistani border posts were currently equipped with small weapons suitable for fighting insurgents and bunkers had been built along the frontier.
He said the coordination mechanism between Pakistani and NATO forces had been "completely violated" and there were reasons to believe that the air strike was a "planned attack, and not a mistake".
Another participant of the briefings said Ahmed pointed out that the commander of International Security Assistance Force, Gen John Allen, had met Kayani on November 26, hours before the border posts were attacked. He said when the matter was taken up with Allen the next day, he expressed ignorance.
"According to him (Allen) no such attack was planned, giving rise to speculations that certain operations are conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Special Operation Forces on their own and about which NATO and ISAF are kept in the dark," Ahmed was quoted as saying.
Explaining the sequence of events, Ahmed said a post code-named Volcano was first attacked by two NATO helicopter gunships at 12.15am on November 26. A nearby check post, code-named Boulder, hit back with 12.7mm anti-aircraft weapons and mortars after the first attack.
Ahmed said the army's general headquarters learnt of the incident at 12.35am. Subsequently, Boulder post too was attacked and all communication with both posts was snapped. Minutes before the disruption, the company commander left for the posts to assess the situation. This officer lost his life after the helicopters re-engaged the posts.
Another officer sent later saved his life by sheltering in a bunker when he saw the helicopters. He said the entire operation lasted almost two hours. Ahmed said the two posts were located at a place from where there had been no cross-border infiltration, though militant attacks from the Afghan side had been frequent.
The two posts, he said, could not be mistaken for militant havens as the Afghan side had been given all information about the number of Pakistani posts and their locations.
The DGMO further said the Pakistan Army believed that NATO was monitoring radio transmissions that night and knew they had hit Volcano post. Ahmed was quoted as saying that misleading information was provided to the Pakistan military from the outset.
Just before the air strike, a Pakistani officer at the regional tactical centre was informed by an American sergeant that US Special Forces had received indirect fire from Gora Pai, 15 km from Volcano post.
And after seven minutes, a woman officer informed him that the firing had come from Volcano, which had been hit in retaliation.
"It is not the first incident of its kind and in recent years it already has happened thrice," Ahmed was quoted as saying.
In reply to a question, he said joint investigations had been carried out in the past but vital information that could have helped reach a conclusion was never shared.