ID: 153438 5/12/2008 12:41 Embassy Islamabad SECRET ISLAMABAD 001826 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/05/2028 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MASS, MARR, PK
SUBJECT: APRIL 23 PAK-AFGHAN BORDER INCIDENT
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson for Reasons 1.4 (a), (b)
1. (S/NF) Summary: On the morning of April 23, Pakistani 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.
”Hot Pursuit” ------------- 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 artillery support.
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.
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)
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.
Pakistani Reaction ------------------ 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 that such incidents must not be repeated.”
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.
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.
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. PATTERSON