NATO Strike Kills Pakistani Soldiers

U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, near Pakistan border, August 26, 2011.

by Crystal Collins

Last week, NATO helicopters and jet fighters reportedly attacked two Pakistani army posts on the border of Afghanistan, killing around 25 soldiers. Haaretz and the Islamic Republic News Agency both report the number to be 24, while Al Jazeera says it’s 25, and Al Arabiya has just decided to go with “up to 26.” It might seem like kind of a minor thing to pick up on (the fact that various news sources can’t determine how many people died), but it’s just one small part of a rather problematic situation full of uncertainties, many of them concerning relations between Pakistan and the United States.

The US and Pakistan have had a very tense relationship lately, “following a tumultuous year that saw the Osama¬†bin Laden raid, the jailing of a CIA contractor and US accusations that Pakistan backed an attack on the US embassy in Kabul” (Al Jazeera). This strike, which Pakistan is reportedly viewing as a “violation of Pakistani sovereignty” (IRNA) probably won’t do much to help. Pakistan has already expressed its outrage and taken steps in response, namely blocking a NATO supply route into Afghnistan and ordering the US to vacate an air base within fifteen days.

All news sources seem to agree on the fact that relations between the two countries are tense and strained and that this strike won’t help. However, there were some differences in how each agency described the strike and how they presented their information. All of them basically used the same quotes from the same people, but some agencies paid slightly more attention than others.

Interestingly enough, The Iran Republic News Agency is pretty straight forward about the strike. Their article on what happened is fairly short and to the point, mostly just summarizing and quoting politicians from Pakistan and the US. There’s no real rhetoric and very little context about what happened. Their article about it is literally just a paragraph. The only photo included is a low-quality picture from an unknown date (see below). Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that IRNA is government-controlled and subject to a lot of censorship, and so it’s easier and less messy to merely present statements from each side and leave it at that. This seems to be a fairly standard practice looking through some of their other articles.

Secretary of State Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (IRNA)

The Al Arabiya article takes an approach that is a little more detailed and closer to what we would expect to see from a Western source, like The New York Times, for example. It’s lengths longer than the IRNA article and includes quotes from other sources and even a video from the memorial ceremony for the Pakistani soldiers who were killed. It’s generally fairly neutral in providing statements from multiple Pakistani and US-based officials and military officers. It’s also worth noting that Al Arabiya chose to include a video of the funeral for the soldiers, which is something that we know wouldn’t happen in an article from a Western news agency. The Al Arabiya article isn’t entirely unique, however. It very closely mimics the Al Jazeera article on the strike and its history and aftermath, from a video of the funeral to the exact sequence of events and context reported. Considering that Al Arabiya was created to be a direct competitor for Al Jazeera, it’s not really surprising that the two would have similar styles in reporting.

Military Honors Fallen Soldiers (Al Arabiya)

I personally think Haaretz has the best coverage of the NATO strike and the ensuing problems. There are two separate articles (1 and 2) on the matter (in comparison to just one from the others) and both of them are different. They use some of the same quotes as the other sources do, but they’re generally much more detailed on the specifics of what happened, as well as what it might mean. The two articles reuse some of the same paragraphs and information, but I think it’s worth noting that Haaretz still prepared two articles as each event happened (first, the blockage of a NATO supply route and then the order to vacate an air base.)

Pakistani protesters shout slogans against America and NATO in Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday. (Haaretz)

It remains to be seen exactly how things will play out, especially considering the importance of Pakistan to the US in its “War on Terror.” This is actually something all of the different news agencies seem to agree on, even though Haaretz felt the need to end both of their pieces with a quote that “things will get back to normal,” even though this remains to be seen.

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About middleeastcommentary

As an Associate Professor in Electronic Media Communication at Middle Tennessee State University, I teach courses in Media in the Middle East, among other courses analyzing media. I also produce media -- a recent documentary on the Kurds of Northern Iraq "More than the Mountains: Kurdistan of Iraq" produced following two trips to Iraq in 2005 and 2008.
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2 Responses to NATO Strike Kills Pakistani Soldiers

  1. Crystal,
    Your articles from Haaretz are interesting too in that they adopt the Pakistani point of view that their soldiers were killed while sleeping (at 2 a.m.) whereas the New York Times merely talks about the disagreement on accounts of what happened. “The American and Pakistani accounts of the NATO strikes vary widely. A former senior American official briefed on the exchange said Wednesday that the airstrikes came in the last 15 to 20 minutes of a running three-hour skirmish, presumably with Taliban fighters on one or both sides of the border. That is at odds with the Pakistani account that its troops were in a two-hour firefight with the Americans.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/01/world/middleeast/for-pakistan-no-formal-remorse-yet-from-obama.html

  2. David Jenkins says:

    I’m really curious as to how much effort Pakistan really puts into fighting militant groups in the tribal border region. A lot of stories say that they are completely on the side of the US, and ideologically they are opposed to Al Qaeda (not to mention as our ally). But the Afghan government claims that the Pakistani army are responsible for really heavy rocket and artillery bombardments from across the border. I only have friends who have served in Iraq, not Afghanistan, but their stories usually seem to be about IED’s, snipers, and other covert attacks…I always imagined the fighting style would be the same in Afghanistan, not “heavy bombardments.” Obviously both Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been involved around the border, though, and I can’t say that I know anything about what kind of weapon technology either group has.

    The USA today article below seems to side with the Afghan government in blaming the Pakistani army. It is unimaginable that the new Afghan government would be able to fight Pakistan, so I think their threat to retaliate is a little empty. If it is Pakistani troops firing from across the border, I really can’t criticize NATO for bombing them, although bombings are never a good thing in general.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2011-09-25/afghanistan-pakistan-borders/50546974/1

    Also, I found a Fox article that paints Pakistan in a good light for its cooperation with the US (obviously before this incident, it was last month), and I thought it was really strange that Fox would report that kind of story…

    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/10/08/pakistan-arrests-al-qaeda-suspects-stops-asking-for-end-to-cia-drone-strikes/

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