ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan's top military commander has issued orders to the country's troops to return fire should they come under attack again from U.S.-led coalition forces, a move that's likely to increase tensions after an American-led air raid on two border outposts last week killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's army chief, issued the order in a letter to his troops that set out the rules of engagement against any "aggressor."
The new orders came as Pakistan and U.S. officials traded conflicting accounts of what happened in the incident, which American officials say came after a joint U.S.-Afghan unit took fire from the Pakistani side of the border but which Pakistani officials say was unprovoked. No American or Afghan casualties were reported in the incident, which is thought to have occurred shortly after midnight on Nov. 26.
On Friday, published reports quoted unnamed U.S. military officers as saying they had called in the airstrike on the border posts only after asking for and receiving permission for it from Pakistan.
A senior Pakistani military official, speaking to McClatchy Newspapers only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, denied those accounts, saying the United States went ahead without getting clearance from the Pakistani side. He acknowledged that the United States had contacted Pakistan before the attack, but he said the coordinates the United States gave for the proposed strike were incorrect.
Kayani's order, distributed Thursday, could lead to a skirmish between Pakistani and coalition forces, supposedly allies, if there's another incident of "friendly fire" at the border. It also turns the deployment of more than 100,000 Pakistani troops along the country's western border from a force meant to stop the Taliban to one charged with protecting the border.
Kayani is under pressure due to anger within his ranks over the two-hour bombardment of the mountaintop outposts known as Volcano and Boulder. The Pakistani air force didn't respond to the attack.
It was the second time the military failed to respond to an incursion by American troops this year. In May, U.S. special forces found and killed Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan without being detected, an incident the military found humiliating.