Pakistan has major United States non-NATO ally since 2002. Pakistan had very good relations with United States, but things started to go wrong when US started to go against to policies and rules of engagements defined. Drone strikes in North Western Province of Pakistan were already a huge blow to the relations as innocent civilian causality rate was very high. People of Pakistan were already on the roads, protests were taking place throughout the country against the drone strikes. Under such circumstances Salala incident took place. This incident was like adding fuel to burning fire.
Salala incident took place on 26th November 2011. On this day US led NATO forces attacked two Pakistani Military patrol check posts along the Pak-Afghan border. US package comprised of 2x Apache Helicopters, 1x AC-130 Gunship and covered by 2x F-15Es. These multiple packages violated Pakistani territory from 200m to 2.5Km. In this attack 28x Pakistani soldiers, including 2x officer embraced Shahadat and 12x were injured. Both sides claimed that other has fired first.
According to US and Afghan officials, Pakistani forces fired upon the US-Afghan coalition forces. They were conducting an operation against Afghan Taliban in Kunar Province. Afghan and US officials claim that it was a defensive action as fire was coming directly from Pakistani patrol posts. Another US official in Kabul pointed that when helicopter fired it was a situation when Taliban had butted up against Pakistani posts. Another claim was made by IS that information about the proposed strike was passed on to Pakistani side and they cleared the strike as there were no Pakistani forces in the area.
This incident sparked outrage and controversy in Pakistan and other countries. This act was against the sovereignty of Pakistan. Pakistan claimed this attack was preplanned not done unintentionally. Pakistan rejected all excuses of US and Afghan officials. Pakistani leadership told all news about first fire from Pakistan is totally fake as all the soldiers were asleep or resting at that time. Reports claim that there were around 40 soldiers stationed at 2 posts. The helicopters first attacked border post named “Volcano”. This attack was so hard that it cut all types of communications to and from the posts. There also not enough time that Pakistan Airforce can counter this threat in such short time. Second post known as “Boulder” engaged the helicopters with anti-aircraft guns and they withdrew.
Pakistani authorities tried to contact NATO counterparts in an afford to inform them and stop them from carrying out further strike but the request could not be transferred to attacking force to stop the strike. The helicopters returned second time and attacked “Boulder” post. After the second strike was completed the package was called back but Pakistani Major General Abbas expressed that it is beyond comprehension why US led NATO forces engaged second time after withdrawing.
Local officials said that there was no information passed by Afghan or US forces of militant activity. When helicopters engaged hit post “Volcano”, they know they had hit Pakistani border patrol posts as they were monitoring radio transmissions. Yet they returned and engaged post “Boulder”. They also tried to engage Pakistani forces who rushed to aid posts attacked.
This incident resulted in serious deterioration of relation between Pakistan and United States. The Pakistani public reacted with protests throughout the country and government took strict measures of evacuation of Shamsi Airfield and closure of NATO supply line. These measures had very adverse effects on US exit strategy from Afghanistan.
Supply lines were closed day after the incident happened and it costed US cost of $104 million per month via alternate routes whereas Pakistani routes costed around $87 million costlier per month. However, Pakistan demanded US to pay $5000 per truck. This was very high which US could not afford at that time and US rejected this proposal by Pakistan. Pakistan also rejected to attend Bonn Conference which was scheduled on 5th December 2011. International pressure over Pakistan mounted as it refused to attend the Bonn conference. Secretary Hillary Clinton contacted the Pakistani Prime Minister, but her plea was rejected because Pakistani public opinion prohibited attendance. The conference was generally regarded as a disappointment, partially because of Pakistan’s absence.
Pakistani also ordered US to shut down all operations and vacate the Shamsi Airfield within the deadline of 15 days. US forces and CIA leased this airfield in 2001 for surveillance and to launch drone strikes. The orders of its evacuation by US personnel symbolized an increasing rift and deterioration in relations between Pakistan and the United States. All equipment was shifted to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. On 11 December 2011 troops from Pakistan Frontier Corps took full control of the airfield and raised Pakistani Flag.
Pakistan opened supply lines on 3rd July 2012 after the US Secretary of State apologized for Salala incident on a telephonic call to Pakistani Foreign Minister “Hina Rabbani Kahar” “Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives”. Clinton said in a statement. “We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”
After this incident friends like China, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Russia, etc. shown serious concern & organizations like United Nations & European Union offered condolences and shown serious concerns on US action against Pakistan.