Pakistan pulls out of liaison posts; US concerned
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan on Tuesday temporarily recalled some troops from border posts meant to coordinate activity with international forces in Afghanistan as relations have been pushed to an all-time low by NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
The troops were pulled back for “consultation” on how to improve coordination with NATO and should be back at their posts within the next few days, said Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. He did not specify the number of troops who would be recalled, but said some would remain at the border centers.
The decision, however, highlighted current problems with coordination because U.S. military officials seemed to think it was another retaliatory move by Pakistan for the NATO strikes. The officials feared it would hamper efforts to liaise with Pakistani forces and increase the risk for another misunderstanding.
U.S. military officials said late Monday that Pakistan was pulling out of at least two of the three centers along the border and expressed concern about the potential impact. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The U.S. and Pakistan have offered different accounts of what led to the NATO attacks against two army posts along the Afghan border before dawn on Nov. 26, but the deadly incident seems to have been caused in part by communication breakdowns.
The soldiers’ deaths have further strained already tense U.S.-Pakistan relations, threatening Washington’s attempts to get Pakistan to cooperate on the Afghan war.
Pakistan retaliated immediately by closing its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies, demanding the U.S. vacate an air base used by American drones and boycotting an international conference held Monday in Bonn, Germany, aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan.