Pakistan, NATO Hold Border Talks Following Deadly Attack

Posted February 8th, 2012 at 8:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Representatives of the Pakistani army, NATO and Afghan forces have met for talks in an effort to improve coordination along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The meeting Wednesday in Pakistan's border town of Torkham is a sign of easing of tensions between the United States and Pakistan after NATO airstrikes accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year.

Pakistan was outraged by the attack on two of its Afghan border posts in November and retaliated by closing its border to transit of NATO supplies for its troops in Afghanistan.

Last month, Pakistan's army rejected a U.S. military probe into the November 26 cross-border coalition attack. The army said it did not agree with U.S. findings that American forces acted in self-defense and with appropriate force after being fired on by Pakistani soldiers.

U.S. defense officials blamed inadequate coordination by both American and Pakistani forces.

But tensions seemed to have eased slightly, with Pakistani officials saying in recent days the government should reopen its border to NATO supplies as long as it can negotiate higher fees.

In Washington, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State department, Victoria Nuland, said Wednesday that the United States has made great efforts and invested a fair amount of U.S. taxpayers' money into education and microlending programs, flood relief and all kinds of economic opportunity programs for Pakistan because it believes that a strong Pakistan is in the interest of both sides.

Ties between the two countries were already strained following last May's U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden and repeated U.S. drone strikes targeting militants in Pakistan's northwest.

Pakistani officials say the latest drone attack, which took place in the North Waziristan tribal region on Wednesday, killed 10 people.

Officials say two missiles hit a compound suspected of belonging to militants. Security officials say the dead included foreigners and locals.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama publicly acknowledged for the first time that the United States uses drone strikes against militants in Pakistan.

Mr. Obama defended the operations, which have greatly increased during his administration, saying they are used for “very precise, precision strikes” in the fight against al-Qaida.

The Washington-based New America Foundation says drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,700 and 2,700 people in the past eight years.

Pakistan rejects the attacks as a violation of its sovereignty.