ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday.
The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tensions between Washington and a key ally against terrorism. Although the ground attack was rare, there have been repeated reports of U.S. drone aircraft striking militant targets, most recently on Sept. 12.
However, the Pentagon said Islamabad will "correct the record" the volatile statement.
Spokesman Bryan Whitman said Pakistan is an ally in the global war on terror, adding that the U.S. enjoys "good cooperation with Pakistan along the border."
Pakistani officials warn that stepped-up cross-border raids will accomplish little while fueling violent religious extremism in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Some complain that the country is a scapegoat for the failure to stabilize Afghanistan.
Pakistan's civilian leaders, who have taken a hard line against Islamic militants since forcing Pervez Musharraf to resign as president last month, have insisted that Pakistan must resolve the dispute with Washington through diplomatic channels.
However, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press that after U.S. helicopters ferried troops into a militant stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal region, the military told field commanders to prevent any similar raids.
"The orders are clear," Abbas said in an interview. "In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire."
U.S. military commanders accuse Islamabad of doing too little to prevent the Taliban and other militant groups from recruiting, training and resupplying in Pakistan's wild tribal belt.
Pakistan acknowledges the presence of al Qaeda fugitives and its difficulties in preventing militants from seeping through the mountainous border into Afghanistan.
However, it insists it is doing what it can and paying a heavy price, pointing to its deployment of more then 100,000 troops in its increasingly restive northwest and a wave of suicide bombings across the country.