US mistakes in Pakistan air strike

2011-12-22 16:40
Washington - The US said on Thursday mistakes and misunderstandings resulted in last month's Pakistan air strikes that killed 24 soldiers, but insisted US forces were fired on first and had "acted in self defence and with appropriate force".

A fundamental lack of trust between the two countries played a big factor in the border incident that has heightened tension in an already fragile relationship, which prompted Islamabad to cut off critical Nato supply routes to Afghanistan.

Results of the US military probe, already shared with the Pakistani and Afghan governments, and the Nato leadership, maintained there was there "no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military", according to a Pentagon statement.

There was also no effort to "deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials" amid the strike, said the defence official.

A separate Nato investigation also released on Thursday found that both the alliance and Pakistani forces made mistakes in the incident, and that forces were unable "to properly co-ordinate their locations and actions, both before the operation and during the resulting engagement".

Investigation

Pakistan has sought a full apology from US President Barack Obama for the strikes, and some officials have alleged it was a deliberate assault on Pakistani troops. US officials have insisted the November 26 incident was a regrettable mistake.

The Pentagon probe said that "inadequate co-ordination" by both US and Pakistani military officers in the wake of US and Afghan troops "being fired upon" lead to the strikes.

"Gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result," said the Pentagon.

The Nato investigation said Afghan and Nato-led forces "legitimately responded in self-defence" after being initially fired upon by "unidentified forces" that were not believed to be Pakistani military at the time, the alliance said.

"The combined force did not knowingly fire at the Pakistani forces," the alliance said.

US authorities cited a lack of trust as a key problem for effectively securing the border region, where US, Afghan and Nato forces are battling Taliban insurgents in the area.

The Pentagon said the allied forces "cannot operate effectively on the border - or in other parts of our relationship - without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us. We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap."

Mistaken

US media reports earlier on Thursday, citing unnamed US sources, had said the military probe had found US and Afghan commandos were wrong to conclude there were no Pakistani forces in the border region before giving a strike go-ahead.

Revelations from the military probe placing blame on both US and Pakistani forces could further enrage Islamabad, where officials have maintained their troops did nothing wrong, and did not fire first.

In Washington last week, a Pakistan embassy official said Nato forces could not have mistaken the two border posts on the Afghan border for bases of Islamic extremists such as the Taliban as they stood on high ground and had structures.

The Pakistani official had declined to speculate on US motivations for any alleged deliberate attack.

The incident comes amid high tension between the US and Pakistan, whose military - long the country's most powerful institution - has been on the defensive since the secret US raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden.

Obama has telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari to offer his condolences over the strike, but Washington has stopped short of apologizing pending the outcome of the military probe.

A press briefing later on Thursday will be held to address the investigation, the Pentagon said.

Read more on:    pakistan  |  us  |  security

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