US-led forces, Pakistan discuss cross-border attack

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010 07:53 GMT

* US-led force tried, failed to notify Pakistan beforehand

* Pakistan says notice after airstrikes "unacceptable"

WASHINGTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan tried but failed to notify Pakistan before launching rare cross-border air strikes last week that killed some 30 insurgents on Pakistani soil, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday.

Colonel David Lapan, the spokesman, said the two sides are discussing communications breakdowns surrounding the incident. Pakistan, which was not notified until after the attack, called the cross-border incursion "unacceptable" and a violation of the U.N. mandate for the NATO force in Afghanistan.

Lapan said the International Security Assistance Force followed "established protocols" worked out between the two sides. "They attempted to contact the Pakistanis at the time of the incident and were unable to and then ended up contacting them after the incident and letting them know," Lapan said.

Asked if there was a disagreement between Pakistan and ISAF over the protocol, Lapan said, "I don&${esc.hash}39;t know that I&${esc.hash}39;d call it a disagreement but there are certainly discussions underway between our forces and the Pakistanis about this particular incident: Again, what were the communications breakdowns, what happened, what was supposed to happen."

Manned incursions into Pakistan are rare. The United States prefers to use unmanned aerial drones for its attacks on militant positions in Pakistan&${esc.hash}39;s borderlands, known to be a haven for militant groups.

Some 21 attacks by remotely piloted drones have been carried out in September, the highest number in a single month on record. But manned military flights across the border are extremely rare.

The incident on Friday occurred when two ISAF Apache attack helicopters flew to assist an Afghan security outpost that had come under attack in Khost province. The helicopters came under fire when they arrived on the scene.

"In this case there were helicopters that were taking fire from the ground, so it&${esc.hash}39;s clearly self-defense," Lapan said.

"What predicated it was the outpost in Afghanistan that was taking fire," he added. (Editing by Todd Eastham)

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