by Florian Flade
In the course of a military operation in East Afghanistan last Friday, U.S. helicopter gunships advanced on Pakistani territory and killed up to 50 insurgents.
The helicopter attack was preceded by a major attack by Taliban fighters of the Haqqani Network on an Afghan army outpost in the eastern province of Khost.
The insurgents attacked the Narizah Base in the Tani district of Khost, about eight kilometers from the Pakistani border. U.S. troops went in to support the Afghan soldiers and repulsed the Taliban assault, which led to the insurgents fleeing in to neighboring Afghanistan.
„An air weapons team in the area observed the enemy fire, and following International Security Assistance Force rules of engagement, crossed into the area of enemy fire,“ says a releases statement by the ISAF forces.
An ISAF spokesman confirmed to me that on Friday two American helicopters repelled the Taliban attack in Khost. The Taliban insurgents started to retreat back to Pakistan and the U.S. Apache helicopters followed them into Pakistan´s North Waziristan Agency.
A total of 49 insurgents were killed during this operation on Friday.
On Saturday the two U.S. helicopters came under enemy attack in the border region with Pakistan and subsequently returned the fire. Four to six Taliban had been killed as a result, ISAF-spokesman says.
The ISAF command confirmed to me that the Pakistani authorities were notified after the event of the fighting in the border area. „Yes. They were informed shortly after the engagement,“ said a spokesman for the ISAF.
In recent years, U.S. forces entered Afghanistan several times to pursue fleeing insurgents, or hunt down high-level terrorists. In June 2008, for example, U.S. forces pursued Taliban fighters after their attack in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar into the Pakistani agency of Mohmand and killed up to eleven militants.
The Afghan and American outposts in eastern Afghanistan increasingly become the target of insurgent attacks. Several hundred Taliban fighters infiltrate the area of the mountainous border provinces of Afghanistan from Pakistan to attack NATO and Afghan forces.
After the attacks, the insurgents usually pull back into the Pakistani tribal areas, which are considered safe havens for Jihadi fighters.
U.S. military documents that were published in 2007 revealed the circumstances under which American soldiers are allowed to cross the border into Pakistan.
„Recovery of military personnel“, „if troops come under enemy fire“ and the hunt for the „Big 3 – Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar,“ were mentioned as legitimate reasons for an invasion of Pakistani territory in the strategy paper. This applies, however, „General rule: penetrate no further than 10km.“
U.S. President Barak Obama had announced during his campaign that he would grant the U.S. troops permission to operate and hunt terrorists in Pakistan. This happened in the past two years, primarily through the use of unmanned drones which are performing – operated by CIA teams – missile attacks in the Pakistani-Afghan border region on Taliban and al-Qaida targets.