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U.S. strike aggravates alliance with Pakistan

Tuesday's deadly US incursion is under investigation, but it points up the contrast between the two nations' approaches to militants along the Afghanistan border.

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Picking up the pieces: A tribesman sifts through the rubble of a residence after an airstrike by US forces Wednesday in the Sheikh Baba area of the Mohmand region in Pakistan.

Mohammad Shahkar/Reuter

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This week's controversial American incursion into Pakistan is prompting new questions about whether the US must change its strategy in the war on terrorism and is putting the shaky US-Pakistan alliance under even greater pressure.

On Tuesday, the US dropped at least three precision bombs just inside Pakistan on the Afghanistan border, reportedly killing 11 people. US forces had been fighting a group of militants in Afghanistan's Kunar Province near the border, pursuing them when they fled into Pakistan, the Pentagon said. Pakistan's government strongly condemned the attack; the Pentagon maintained that the operation had been coordinated with the Pakistanis beforehand and that US forces had successfully targeted militants. But US officials left open the possibility that members of the Pakistani military were among those killed.

Complicating the picture were statements from the US State Department regretting the loss of life, suggesting the operation had occurred in error. Military officials were still investigating the incident on Thursday.

In some military circles, recognition is growing that security in Afghanistan is tied to Pakistan's ability to rein in militants within its own borders. Groups that have fomented unrest across the border continue to seek refuge inside Pakistan, they say. The NATO alliance has been limited in its response to the problem by its inability to take the fight across the border and inside a sovereign country that has been an important US ally.

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