Nightly News   |  November 26, 2011

US-Pakistani relations severely damaged

At least two dozen Pakistani troops along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border were killed by NATO aircraft, straining already tense relations between the U.S. and Pakistan. NBC's Atia Abawi reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: The already strained relationship between the US and its wartime ally, Pakistan , has been further stretched toward the breaking point after a NATO air attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. It happened this morning in a pair of border outposts. The circumstances surrounding the attack remain murky and notably Washington has not directly accepted blame. Tonight, Pakistani officials are calling the incident a grave infringement of the country's sovereignty and have moved to cut off critical support to the American-led war effort in neighboring Afghanistan . Let's go to NBC 's Atia Abawi in Kabul now who's got the latest for us. Atia :

ATIA ABAWI reporting: Good evening, Lester . Well, today's attack was not only a tremendous loss for Pakistan 's military, it was perhaps the most damaging incident for US-Pakistani relations in years. Pakistan responded quickly today, closing its two border crossings into Afghanistan , cutting off the main supply routes for US and NATO forces within hours of the NATO attack . NATO aircrafts were apparently responding to enemy fire from the volatile and sometimes undefined border.

Brigadier General CARSTEN JACOBSON (International Security Assistance Force): Close air support was called in in the development off the tactical situation. And it is what highly likely caused Pakistan casualties.

ABAWI: At least two dozen Pakistani troops were killed at two military posts in the Mohmand Agency at the border. Pakistan 's government called the attack unprovoked, indiscriminate and intolerable.

Mr. YUSUF RAZA GILANI (Pakistani Prime Minister): Today at 2:00 in the morning there was an attack on Pakistan , an attack on Pakistan 's solidarity and independence.

ABAWI: In addition to closing the border crossings , the government ordered the United States to vacate an air base in northern Pakistan it reportedly uses to launch CIA drone operations. Even before today's attack , there were deep strains in US-Pakistani relations. In May, when US forces crossed into Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden , the government was furious because it had not been told of the operation. Last year, Pakistan closed one of its border crossings for about 10 days when US helicopters accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers. The US then apologized. Today's incident comes just one day after Marine General John Allen , the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan , met with the head of Pakistan 's army to improve coordination among US, Afghan and Pakistani forces .

Colonel JACK JACOBS, Retired (NBC News Military Analyst): We look at it from a strategic standpoint. Why can't we identify Pakistanis across the border and not bomb them? But for the guy on the ground, if somebody's trying to kill you, you're going to try to kill him back.

ABAWI: In recent months, Afghan officials have also asked for better coordination among the forces along the border because of Pakistani rockets being fired into Afghanistan killing civilians. Pakistan claims that they were fired at insurgents and not civilians. Lester :

HOLT: Atia Abawi in Kabul this evening, thank you.