|08ISLAMABAD1826||2008-05-12 12:41:00||SECRET||Embassy Islamabad|
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Frontier Corps and Afghan Border Police clashed during an
Afghan effort to counter an insurgent attack into Konar
province (Afghanistan). During that incident and subsequent
engagements, five Afghan Border Police and one Pakistan
Frontier Corps soldier were killed. Although the situation
was defused following two senior military commander meetings,
the circumstances surrounding the incident clearly
demonstrate the potential for similar incidents to escalate
and create problems for bilateral relations.
2. (C) On 2 May, Chief of the Office of Defense
Representative Pakistan (ODRP), Major General Helmly, met
with Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Satti
Sallahuddin, to share concerns about the increased intensity
of close combat along the border, which raises the chance of
incidents with Pakistani security forces. Sallahuddin
stressed the significance of maintaining the sovereignty of
Pakistan territory and that further incursions by ISAF and/or
Afghani forces would no longer be "accepted." Separately, MFA
Foreign Secretary Khan expressed similar concerns to
Ambassador. Helmly urged consideration of conducting a
tabletop exercise to stress communications and expose
weaknesses in combined procedures. Sallahuddin further
emphasized the importance of the upcoming Combined Border
Planning Session at Bagram on 10 May. End Summary.
3. (S/NF) During the morning of April 23, a CJTF-101 task
force reported receiving small arms fire and mortars from an
unknown number of insurgents near Forward Operating Base
(FOB) Serkani in Konar province (Afghanistan) who had crossed
the border from Bajaur Agency, Pakistan. As the insurgents
withdrew toward the border region, U.S. and Afghan forces
followed in "hot pursuit" with the help of U.S. AH-64's and
4. (S/NF) Ensuing engagements led U.S. and Afghan forces to
follow the insurgents across the Pakistan border. Under
darkness and perhaps unknown to the U.S. and Afghan forces,
Pakistani Frontier Corps (FC) became caught in the middle of
the ensuing fire-fights.
5. (S/NF) Because of safety concerns regarding possible
Taliban in the area, the Afghan forces elected not to
exfiltrate back across the border into Afghanistan and
temporarily occupied several Pakistani border posts that had
been abandoned during the engagement.
6. (S/NF) A meeting between the ETT commander and commander
of the FC Bajaur Scouts was hastily arranged in the late
morning of the April 23. During this meeting, another
skirmish erupted between Afghan Border Police and the FC
during which one FC troop was killed. (Comment: Whether that
skirmish was precipitated by militant activity or simply
tensions between the Afghan and Pakistani troops remains
unclear. End Comment) On 24 April, two subsequent meetings
were held - between the ODRP Chief and Pakistani DGMO in
Rawalpindi and between the Deputy Commanding General for
Operations of CJTF-101 and the Commandant of the Bajaur
Scouts at Nawa Pass - to resolve the situation.
7. (S/NF) As a result, Afghan forces vacated all Pakistani
border posts on April 24, and the stand off between Afghan
and Pakistani forces was defused. As a result of all
engagements from April 22-24, five Afghani Border Police were
killed, one Pakistani Frontier Corps soldier was killed, and
10 Afghani Border Police were injured.
8. (S/NF) Initial press indicated that Pakistan launched a
protest with International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
and the Afghan government over the border incident. Pakistan
Army DGMO also indicated that, although Afghani forces held a
Pakistani border post in the vicinity of Nawa Pass
temporarily, they would be "evicted." Additionally, an MFA
spokesman stated "Afghanistan has been told in clear terms
ISLAMABAD 00001826 002 OF 002
that such incidents must not be repeated."
9. (S/NF) During a meeting on April 24, MFA Foreign
Secretary Khan raised with Ambassador the GOP's concern with
the cross-border incident. Although exact details of the
incident were still under investigation, Khan stated
unequivocally that occupation was not acceptable, especially
when the Afghan forces knew they were in Pakistan and refused
to leave. According to Khan, this was not Pakistan's
understanding of the rules of engagement (ROE), and it was
U.S. - Pakistan Discussion
10. (C) On 2 May, ODRP Chief, Major General Helmly, met with
Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Satti Sallahuddin,
to share concerns about the increased intensity of close
combat along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, raising the
chance of incidents with Pakistani security forces. DGMO,
Major General Pasha, DGMI, Major General Asif, and D/ODRP,
Col Shapiro, were also in attendance.
11. (C) Helmly emphasized that neither side could afford
failures in communication and situational awareness,
particularly given the new Pakistani civilian
administration's unfamiliarity with security issues. He
reiterated current CJTF ROE regarding border incursions and
acknowledged that, although the Pakistani side had never
accepted the validity of the ROE, U.S. forces were operating
under this guidance.
12. (C) Sallahuddin stressed that orders have been issued to
all Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps troops that incursions
by ISAF and/or Afghani forces will no longer be "accepted."
He added that forces would continue to do their best to
prevent militant cross-border movement, but the significance
of maintaining sovereignty of Pakistan territory could not be
overstated. Furthermore, Sallahuddin asserted that
inadvertent border incursions would not be treated as hostile
actions, but deliberate border crossings that endangered
Pakistani troops were "intolerable."
Need for Increased Training and Cooperation
13. (C) Helmly conveyed that the U.S. and Pakistan had
ignored the possibility for such incidents for too long and
that we must face the potential for "friendly fire"
engagements or for a coalition aircraft downing in the FATA
during night/bad weather in which the rescue operations may
commence under combat conditions. He strongly urged
consideration of conducting a tabletop exercise with
coalition forces simulating a scenario of escalation from a
close border engagement in Afghanistan through "hot pursuit"
and engagement in Pakistan, followed by a simulated aircraft
downing in Pakistan.
14. (C) Helmly explained that if U.S. air forces were to
encounter a catastrophic malfunction just inside the border
that forced them down inside Pakistan, the U.S. would launch
a search/rescue operation that could be perceived by
Pakistani forces in the area as "hostile intent." Limited
means of communication and troops ill-equipped with night
surveillance gear would only increase the chances that such a
cross-border incident would spiral out of control.
15. (C) Both Helmly and Sallahuddin agreed that such an
exercise would stress communications and expose weaknesses in
combined procedures, helping to strengthen mutual trust and
understanding. They also concurred that communications and
verification of Pakistani border positions by International
Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) would greatly assist in
avoiding unnecessary confrontations. Lastly, Sallahuddin
stressed the importance of the upcoming Combined Border
Planning Session at Bagram on 10 May.