ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to deploy air defence weapons on the country’s border with Afghanistan to pre-empt fresh attacks as it re-evaluates the strategy for safeguarding its western borders from air raids, the Director General of Military Operations told the federal cabinet and the Senate’s defence committee on Thursday.
“After the Nov 26 Nato attack on two military checkposts 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 Dawn.
The briefings took place at a time when the violation of the country’s sovereignty had entirely changed the nature of already strained relations between Pakistan and US, leading to suspension of supplies to Nato forces and setting deadline for evacuation of the Shamsi airbase by Dec 11.
Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem, the DGMO, said it was in this background that the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, had removed checks on hitting back without a prior approval of the top command in case of fresh incursions. He said that currently the posts were equipped with small weapons suitable for fighting insurgents and bunkers had also been set up.
Gen Nadeem said a coordination mechanism had been completely violated and there were reasons to believe that it was a planned attack, and not a mistake. He revealed that Pakistan had recalled 19 out of its 31 coordination officers for consultations.
Another participant recalled the DGMO pointed out that the Commander of International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), Gen John Allen, had met the army chief on Nov 26 day hours before the Mohmand checkposts were attacked. He said when the matter was taken up with Gen Allen the next day, he expressed ignorance.
“According to him (Gen Allen) no such attack was planned, giving rise to speculations that certain operations are conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Special Operation Forces on their own and about which Nato and Isaf are kept in the dark,” the DGMO was quoted as saying.
STRIKES RECALLED: Explaining the sequence of events, he said a post code-named Volcano was first attacked by two helicopter gunships at 12.15am on Nov 26. A nearby check post, code-named Boulder, hit back with 12.7mm anti-aircraft weapons and mortars after the Volcano check post was attacked.
He said the General Headquarters came to know about the incident at 12.35am. Subsequently, check post Boulder also came under attack and all communication was lost with both checkposts. But minutes before the disruption, Company commander Major Mujahid left for the Volcano and Boulder posts for an assessment of the situation. Unfortunately, the officer lost his life after the helicopters re-engaged.
Another officer sent later saved his life by sheltering in a bunker when he saw helicopters taking position again. He said the entire operation lasted almost two hours.
Gen Nadeem said the two posts were located at a place from where there had been no cross-border infiltration, although militant attacks from the other side had been frequent.
The two check posts, he maintained, could not be mistaken for militant havens as the other side had been given all information about the number of Pakistani posts and their locations. The men at the posts were uniformed and positions were well-defined. The DGMO further said the Pakistan Army believed that Nato was monitoring the transmissions that night and knew they had hit Volcano checkpost.
DECEPTION: He said misleading information was provided to the Pakistan military from the outset. Just before the Nov 26 strike, a Pakistani officer at the regional tactical centre was informed by an American sergeant that their special forces had received indirect fire from Gora Pai, some 15 kilometres from Volcano post. And after seven minutes, a woman officer informed him that the fire had, in fact, 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.”
In reply to a question, Gen Nadeem said joint investigations had been carried out in the past as well, but vital information that could have helped reach a conclusion was never shared.
Alamgir Babar, an additional secretary at the Foreign Office, also attended the briefing.