Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell today shrugged off last week’s killings of three Pakistani soldiers, calling it an “unfortunate incident” but insisting that the soldiers in the helicopters were “defending themselves” when they crossed the border and attacked the military outpost.
“One of our helicopters was investigating what looked to be a new fighting position that was being erected along the border,” Morrell said of the longstanding security post, “I guess they came under fire while they were checking out that position.”
But the deaths of the three Pakistani soldiers in the attack appears to be a secondary issue, as US officials press Pakistan to back off its closure of the Khyber Pass supply route to NATO traffic, a retaliatory move made in the wake of the killings.
The US has insisted the war supplies haven’t been affected yet, and Morrell suggested today that even if the border stayed close he didn’t think they would be. This seems unlikely, as Pakistan is the route through which some 80% of the war’s materiel travels and no alternative route is really available to the landlocked nation.
NATO offered something of an apology for the killings yesterday, but US officials continue to insist that the attack was entirely appropriate and that no policy changes will come from the incident, which will likely only fuel tensions between NATO and Pakistan.