Claim : American Forces Preparing To Set Up Base In Borderlands
Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and now Pakistan :
Pakistani and American ground troops exchanged fire along the border with Afghanistan on Thursday after the Pakistanis shot at two American helicopters, ratcheting up tensions as the United States increases its attacks against militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban, who are being sheltered in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas.Pakistan has made it very clear to the Americans that they will not, at least publicly, tolerate American forces fighting the WoT on Pakistan territory. On this front, the Pakistan government and the Taliban are in total agreement.
The two American OH-58 Kiowa reconnaissance helicopters were not damaged and no casualties were reported on either side from the ground fire. But American and Pakistani officials agreed on little else about what happened in the fleeting mid-afternoon clash between the allied troops.American and NATO officials said that the two helicopters were flying about one mile inside Afghan air space to protect an American and Afghan patrol on the ground when the aircraft were fired on by small-caliber arms fire from a Pakistani military checkpoint near Tanai district in Khost Province.
In response, the American ground troops shot short bursts of warning fire, which hit well shy of the rocky, hilltop checkpoint, and the Pakistanis fired back, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for the Central Command.
General Abbas, the Pakistani spokesman, said the clash had been reported to NATO headquarters in Kabul and was under investigation by both Pakistani and NATO officials.
Although it lasted just a few minutes, military officials and diplomats said the brief clash showed there was a risk of a much more serious, and lethal, misunderstanding along the border.
Pakistani civilian leaders have denounced an incursion by American Special Operations forces into Pakistan on Sept. 3, which was authorized under orders given by President Bush in July, and the Pakistani Army has vowed to defend its border “at all costs.”“We will not tolerate any act against our sovereignty and integrity in the name of the war against terrorism,” Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, told reporters on Wednesday. “We are fighting extremism and terror not for any other country, but our own country.”
Syed Saleem Shahzad, writing in the Asia Times :
Pakistan is now the declared battleground in this struggle by Islamic militants to strike first against American interests before the United States' war machine completes its preparations to storm the sanctuaries of al-Qaeda in Pakistan.
Already, though, events had been set in motion to shape this new battlefield.
Approximately 20 kilometers from Islamabad lies Tarbella, the brigade headquarters of Pakistan's Special Operation Task Force (SOTF). Recently, 300 American officials landed at this facility, with the official designation as a "training advisory group", according to documents seen by Asia Times Online.
However, high-level contacts claim this is not as simple as a training program.
...the US has bought a huge plot of land at Tarbella, several square kilometers, according to sources directly handling the project. Recently, 20 large containers arrived at the facility. They were handled by the Americans, who did not allow any Pakistani officials to inspect them.
Given the size of the containers, it is believed they contain special arms and ammunition and even tanks and armored vehicles - and certainly have nothing to do with any training program.
There is little doubt in the minds of those familiar with the American activities at Tarbella that preparations are being made for an all-out offensive in North-West Frontier Province against sanctuaries belonging to the Taliban and al-Qaeda led by bin Laden. Pakistani security sources maintain more American troops will arrive in the coming days.
For both the militants and the United States, the gloves have come off.
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