‘Unprovoked’: DGMO gives details of aerial assault

Published: November 30, 2011

The two helicopters had pulled back midway through giving the impression the attack had ended, but returned for another attack that night. PHOTO : FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

The Nato attack on two military check posts in the Mohmand Agency early Saturday morning was an “unprovoked act of blatant aggression,” said the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Major General Ishfaq Nadeem on Tuesday, adding that all options remained open to the  government and the military. “The final decision rests with the prime minister. We are considering a range of options,” he told journalists at a briefing, adding that the military will have its input into the decisions taken.  A review of the incident is under way at the GHQ, he said.

The DGMO said he was not authorised to comment on what specific counter measures were being considered to cope with such situations in the future and added these would be finalised after the completion of the continuing investigation into the incident.

He went into comprehensive detail about the sequence of events known so far, explaining that a check post code-named Volcano first came under attack at around 15 to 30 minutes after midnight. A nearby check post, code-named Boulder, responded with 12.7 mm anti-aircraft weapons and mortars after the Volcano check post came under attack from gunship helicopters.

Subsequently, check post Boulder also came under attack and all communication was lost with both check posts. But before communication was lost, company commander Major Mujahid headed for Volcano and Boulder to investigate and was killed as the helicopters re-engaged. Amongst the 24 men killed that night was also Captain Usman who leaves behind a widow and a 3-month-old baby daughter.

The DGMO said the two posts were located at a place from where there has been no cross-border infiltration, though militant attacks from the other side had been continuing. Settled villages were two-three kilometres away from the posts and the posts themselves were about 300-400 metres inside Pakistan borders.

The two check posts, he maintained, could not be mistaken for militant sanctuaries because the other side had been provided all available information about the number of Pakistani posts and their locations. The men at the posts were uniformed and the posts 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.

The posts were being manned by the experienced and battle-hardened 7-AK battalion which was equipped with both line and wireless communications equipment, but armed for dealing only with militant activity but not repelling an aerial assault. “The troops are geared for fighting terrorists and not border security,” he said.

The Pakistan Army maintains an 8,200 man presence in Mohmand Agency following military operations to clear the region of militants, with 29 border checkposts in along the border while there are only 14 on the Afghan side, manned predominantly by Afghan police. A total of 820 check posts are maintained in the tribal belt along the border.

By 1 a.m. all channels of communications with the other side were activated and the helicopters were pulled back. But as Pakistani troops moved from one post to the other to assess the damage and aid the injured, the helicopters reappeared and pinned them down. Some 26 artillery airbursts were fired by the Pakistani side and the engagement lasted until 0215.

Answering a question, he said the civil authorities including the president, the prime minister and the foreign and defence ministers were informed in the “morning” about the incident which began around midnight and lasted for two hours.

The reason for the implied delay in informing the civil authorities, he said, was because a complete picture had not emerged until daybreak.

It was clear from General Nadeem’s briefing that there was misleading information being provided to the Pakistan military from the start. Just before the attack, a Pakistani officer at the regional tactical center was informed by an American sergeant that their special forces had received indirect fire from Gora Pai, located some 15 kilometres away from Volcano post. And after 7 minutes, a woman officer informed him that the fire had, in fact, come from Volcano, which had been hit in retaliation.

The DGMO was dismissive of previous joint inquiries conducted into three earlier incidents. “There have been joint inquiries and they all came to naught. They give a version not based on facts as we know them,” he said, adding that Pakistan did not initiate firing at any point that night.

The DGMO listed the standard operating procedures that exists in the border coordination mechanism that entails sharing information on impending operations in advance, particularly if these operations come within two kilometers of the border; to immediately communicate if one side comes under fire with the responsibility to take action from the country from where the attack originated; and cessation of fire when communication established. “All SOPs were violated that night,” said General Nadeem.

He further elaborated that while the helicopters intruded into Pakistani airspace on an intermittent basis, supporting jets did not enter Pakistani airspace.

The central question remains why the Pakistan Air Force did not respond immediately to the attack. General Nadeem said there was “a haze” at the time, adding Pakistan Air Force interceptors did not scramble when the two helicopters from the other side violated the border, because initially it seemed the violation was only marginal.

Furthermore, according to him, the two helicopters had pulled back midway through giving the impression the attack had ended, but returned for another attack.

AVM (retd) Shahzad Chaudhry told Express Tribune that “the air force could have scrambled but you have to decide if you want a shooting war with America. With only 200-300 meters between the border, our jets would have entered Afghanistan. It is the consequences you have to live with.”

(Read: A grave crisis in Pakistan-US relations)

Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • Usman
    Nov 30, 2011 - 5:18AM

    First hand account from the wounded soldiersin CMH can be found here

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  • Patriotic
    Nov 30, 2011 - 5:22AM

    c’mon Pakistan! Let’s show them who’s boss here!

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  • Nov 30, 2011 - 5:51AM

    So shoulder mount anti air missiles on checkposts?

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  • Babloo
    Nov 30, 2011 - 5:57AM

    Pakistan is an infinitely weak power here, militarily and economically and politically. If it raises stakes, it will have to pay a high price, which it cannot pay.

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  • SaudiRules
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:23AM

    Major General Ishfaq Nadeem on Tuesday, adding that all options remained open to the government and the military. “The final decision rests with the prime minister

    Really? When it is time to make tough decisions, army always drops the ball on civilians. DGI Pasha thought it important to fly to London to see a US citizen(Mansoor Ijaz) for a trivial issue like “memogate” without asking President or prime minister’s permission but for this the army needs “permission” from the toothless PM! LOL! Remember, that army pulled the same drama-bazi when caught napping during the may 2nd OBL raid, they dumped whole thing on corrupt AZ & co. and got away Scot-free!

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  • H.A. Khan
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:48AM

    This is very unfortunate and sad.

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  • Hairaan
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:17AM

    We only believe our army, not enemy’s.

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  • Still a pakistani
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:54AM

    It is the duty of guard standing on the gate to fire back immediately with all his capacity (Guns, Tanks, Air defense system, Air force jets), once someone crosses the perimeter fence, starts killing so many people rather than waiting for the master to wake up and ask permission.

    Poor show Guard: We are not paying / feeding you for all this to happen on the day you are required to perform.

    Fellow guards on the border posts: God Bless you all now; you have seen your leaders response…!

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  • MarkH
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:58AM

    @Hairaan:
    Considering most people in your country are even aware of unrelated past deceptions, you really just said “We’ll walk off a cliff without question if you claim we can fly. If someone we don’t like says we can’t, we’ll run off of it instead of walking.”

    Why do you guys always seem to insist on being told what to believe in every aspect of your existence?

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  • N
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:21AM

    The way NATO attacked on Pakistani posts highlights that they are well prepared and planned for the after affects. It seems they want to provoke Pakistan so that it will sideline itself from the end process of Afghanistan so that new partner (India) can play its role openly and when needed, Pakistan can be blamed for the failures.

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  • Ramin
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:37AM

    “but armed for dealing only with militant activity but not repelling an aerial assault.”

    “A nearby check post, code-named Boulder, responded with 12.7 mm anti-aircraft weapons”

    That’s one lie ..what else is the army hiding?

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  • Karim
    Nov 30, 2011 - 11:46AM

    it seemed their plan was to eliminate all personnel and blame Taliban for the act. However, it back fired NATO

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  • Saad Bajwa
    Nov 30, 2011 - 12:58PM

    @Ramin: 12.7 mm anti-aircraft gun is a very light weapon (within the context of anti-aircraft weapons) and is essentially a machine gun. Try finding lies elsewhere.

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  • Bammbaayyaa
    Nov 30, 2011 - 2:09PM

    24 Soilders killed in one strike …. now u know who is the boss …..
    Air force can scramble …. but do u want a fight with americal air force ??
    Obviously u dont …. Dont u remember OBL episode ??? U want ur F-16 dropping like flies ?? with just a shot of a mosquito spray ??

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  • AD
    Nov 30, 2011 - 3:06PM

    With all those night googling devices , can’t American have vision to see those soldiers?
    NATO & Terrorists have made this world their playground.Shut your killing machines down you fools.

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  • jj
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:05PM

    dont worry. the taliban will take the revenge. Atleast they know who the real enemy is.

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  • Afghan
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:31PM

    May be the story is:
    The Nato Helicopters chase militants or may be on their routine patrol cross the border; the Pakistani security forces fire warning shots at them. The helos return fire retaliating the out-post guessing the fires come from the militants.
    Now the Nato covers up the real story of ‘warning shots’ from the Pakistani Security Forces and insists on ‘receiving shots from the militants’.

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  • Ejaz
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:37PM

    @MarkH:
    I often read your comments and notice that you are really badly manapulated and brain washed by your media outlets i.e., CNN, BBC and Fox etc. You shouldn’t believe everything what State media tells you; this includes Pakistani State Media as well. Please analyse things and get more evidence through different avenues avaialble to you. I am not saying that all the media outlets tell lies all the times but news is projected with their own angel of thinking. Thank you

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  • Ali Kazmi
    Nov 30, 2011 - 5:08PM

    stay awake – Pakistan Airforce is asleep

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  • STRIVER
    Nov 30, 2011 - 5:18PM

    @MarkH:
    For all your existence you have been fed lies by your own leaders. Your Pied Piepr os leading you in abyss and you are going willingly.Recommend

  • Nirmit
    Nov 30, 2011 - 5:32PM

    this sad by all means and must be condenmed; however, what do you expect when a war is going on; practically no sense prevails. Plots after plots played, by CIA, or the third party. Commoner is always a blockhead and goes with which side he belongs, often undermining the truth and fueling something which is designed thorugh such events.
    I wish Pakistan could have avoided war coming so close to them; at the end it hasn’t made it any better.Recommend

  • Lobster
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:56PM

    One wonders what does Army do with lion’s share of budget if nothing was done in two hours.

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  • Tahir Ali
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:34PM

    Claims and counter claims about the tragic incident. To find out who is telling a lie, let me narrate three instances. President Obama said that Raymond Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity. We all now know that he was a CIA operator. US Senator John Kerry promised trial of Raymond Davis at USA. Nothing of the sort is being done. Recently, Mike Mullen, Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff, initially denied receipt of the ‘Memo” and after about a week admitted when he was sure that he would not be able to defend his lies. If the top leaders do not have the moral courage to speak the truth, how do you expect the soldiers who attacked the Pakistani post take responsibility for the mishap.

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  • Tahir Ali
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:53PM

    @Lobster:
    Pakistan Armed forces get a yearly budget of US$ 5 billion as against US Army’s US$ 720. Then, there is huge technology differential. Moreover, our forces are poised to meet any aggression from the Eastern border. On the Western border, we just have posts where troops have only light weapons. Response by PAF would mean crossing a threshold. Are we inclined to go to war with USA? I do not think so because it won’t be in our interest. There are other ways of dealing with the evolving situation.
    So please don’t always talk about Army’s budget, which has become a fashion.

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  • bangash
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:16PM

    @Tahir Ali
    Army swallows majority of govt budget and cannot defend country against Taliban, India, NATO or US. Instead Army and its apologists always come up with excuses.

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  • DB
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:31PM

    @Ramin:
    12.7mm has dual role as AA and anti-ground. It’s primary goal is anti-ground fire as it’s use against modern aircraft flying at high altitude is very limited..

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  • DB
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:34PM

    @bangash:
    Superpower US cal also not defend against Taliban. Apologists also come up with excuses.

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  • Jadugar
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:47PM

    Was the Armed forces of Pakistan trying test the response and prepardness of American and the NATO forces, If they were then they got the answer, I hold the Pakistan Army responsible for the death of these soilders because it failed give cover and protection to the forces under attack. Pakistan Govt andArmy should try to be truthful and honest with its people.Recommend

  • Tahir Ali
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:57PM

    @bangash:
    Logically, I should not try to drive sense into you If you could not understand my earlier comments. But for your information, Army has lost over 3500 troops including three generals, officers and soldiers while providing security to people like you. Its a shame that you fail to acknowledge that.
    By the way Army gets less than 17% of the entire budget and not as stated by you. Please consult somebody who knows rather than blindly following wrong perceptions.

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  • Uncle J
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:15PM

    With only 200-300 meters between the
    border, our jets would have entered
    Afghanistan

    So let me get something straight. It is ok for Nato and ISAF to intrude into Pakistani airspace to I don’t know, KILL Pakistani soldiers but we’re such scaredy cats we can’t send our jets 300 metres across the border to pursue the KILLERS?

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  • R S JOHAR
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:38PM

    The retired AVM comments that PAF could have scrambled but that Pakistan had to decide whether it wanted to start a shooting war with US. The answer is that it should have inorder to save the precious lives of its own men, who were being bombarded intentionally or otherwise for two hours. In all probabilities the NATO planes would have left on seeing the PAF jets since they too would have avoided a shooting war with its ally. Even if it had resulted in a dogfight, Pakistan actions were justified to save its own troops and also the NATO aircrafts had violated the Pakistan’s airspace.

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  • Samaghdar
    Nov 30, 2011 - 11:06PM

    First of all – why on earth Pakistan even participated in this war on terror . . .oops sorry it has terrorised its own people and is actually a war of terror. Pakistan does not even have sufficient resources to provide the basic neccesities of life to its citizens. It’s Arm forces is not even ready to fight a global war let alone defending it’s own. Whose decision was that and whose decision is that to enable and continue??? It is killing it’s own people and it is enabling a Genocide on its own country as there are both civillian and military casualties with about 38,000 already victims of this genocide, let alone the displaced population!! If the certain countries are looking for oil and natural resources in Afghanistan . . . . Pakistan has no business in this war. It is all about exploiting oil and natural resources to benefit certain countries and Pakistanis need not die in the process like a sacrificial Lamb . . . . .let others fight it out . . .it’s their war! This war of terror has damaged Pakistan tremendously and will be the biggest challenge to pull out of this disaster. This war has actually created terrorism, thereby justifying a perpetual war. Leadership need to show loyalty and suncerity to their country now and not later! Pakistan would have been very progressive and self sufficient without this war. Only honest leadership can stop this syndrome!!Recommend

  • meekal ahmed
    Dec 1, 2011 - 1:48AM

    I am not interested in the assault. I AM interested to know the absence of a response by an armed forces that lives off the toil and sweat of 180 million Pakistani’s!

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  • Domlurian
    Dec 1, 2011 - 1:52AM

    There goes the famed PAF in a PUFF!

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  • Aryan
    Dec 1, 2011 - 2:24AM

    @Tahir Ali:
    You need to look at percentage of budget, not the amount.

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  • Chalo Jago
    Dec 2, 2011 - 7:10AM

    This also could be an attempt by Indian advisors hiding behind NATO to engage Pakistan in a war and keep them busy on the frontier side while they prepare to attack from the Eastern side. India has always surprised Pakistan with its dirty war games. Afghan soil has been historically used by India to attack Pakistan and that’s nothing new. They have done it before and they can do it again. Unfortunately, one should not be surprised if Indian agents in Afghanistan are actually budying up and guiding NATO Arm Forces against Pakistan to exploit the situation!!

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  • IAr
    Dec 2, 2011 - 9:11AM

    The Pakistan army leadership have now given freehand to the local commanders to act more freely in selfdefense without getting ‘green light’ or ‘consulting’ from the top brass in islamabad. PAF dont need any special permission from the top to act either.
    Also I think the border crossing should be closed permanently and the US and NATO can use other russian and central asian routes which they brag so much about and see how long that will last…the requirement for opening the border crossings should be all NATO forces sholud have left the afghanistan .and and people should stop talking about US aid or the ‘hanging noose’ I call it.

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  • safo
    Dec 3, 2011 - 6:57PM

    @Babloo:
    thats why it recruits china as its aid. the world is not fair!

    Recommend

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