US-Pak standoff over NATO attack report continues

Both the US and NATO investigation reported that the US-led NATO forces acted in self-defence after being fired upon.

Last Updated: Dec 23, 2011, 20:32 PM IST

Islamabad/Washington: The US-Pak standoff
over the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by NATO refuses to
die down with Pakistan Army on Friday rejecting a US-led probe
into the cross-border air raid and Washington refusing to
apologise.

"The Pakistan Army does not agree with the findings of
the US/NATO inquiry as is being reported in the media. The
inquiry report is short on facts," Pakistan`s chief military
spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said in Islamabad, while
reacting to the US-led probe into the November 26 incident.

A detailed response will be given as and when the formal
report is received," he said in a statement in Islamabad.

Earlier, commenting on the probe report, the spokesperson
of the National Security Council (NSC), White House, Caitlin
Hayden, said that "We accept responsibility for the
mistakes we made".

The report of an investigation led by Brig Gen Stephen
Clark, a US Air Force special operations officer from the US
Central Command blamed the November 26 incident on "an
over-arching lack of trust" between the two sides.

The cross border strike killed 24 Pakistan soldiers. He
said US forces used the wrong maps, were unaware of Pakistani
border post locations and mistakenly provided the wrong
location for the troops.

Meanwhile, releasing its probe report, the Pentagon said
in Washington, its forces acted in self-defence but conceded
there were mistakes. However, it refused to apologise.

"I think `we regret` speaks to a sense of sympathy with
the Pakistani people... I don`t know -- an apology... you can
figure that out for your own," State Department spokesman Mark
Toner told reporters when asked why the US was not using the
term apology, which has been a major demand of Pakistan.

NSC spokesperson Hayden said President Barack Obama had
been briefed on the report in the past several days.
"With the investigation complete, our focus is to learn
from the mistakes that were made and take whatever corrective
measures are required to ensure an incident like this is not
repeated," she said in response to a question.

Clarke, the US Air Force special operations officer who
led the investigation described a confusing series of gaffes
rooted in the fact that US and Pakistan do not trust each
other enough to provide details about their locations and
military operations along the border.

Pakistan had responded angrily to the attack by closing
all NATO supply routes and forcing the US to vacate Shamsi
airbase, reportedly used by CIA-operated drones.

The US investigation concluded that the "tragic" incident
occurred due to lack of co-ordination between the US and
Pakistani forces. At the same time it asserted that the strong
fire by Pakistani forces was the catalyst for the incident.

Both the US and NATO investigation, results of which were
released simultaneously, reported that the US-led NATO forces
acted in self-defence after being fired upon.

"The investigating officer found US forces given what
information they had available to them at the time, acted in
self-defence and with appropriate force after being fired
upon. He also found that there was no intentional effort to
target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani
military, or to deliberately provide inaccurate location
information to Pakistani officials," Defence Department said.

"The combined international and Afghan force was
initially fired upon by unidentified forces, then believed not
to be Pakistani military and legitimately responded in self-
defence," NATO said in another statement issued from Brussels.
"Inadequate coordination by US and Pakistani military
officers operating through the Border Coordination Center,
including our reliance on incorrect mapping information shared
with the Pakistani liaison officer, resulted in a
misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military
units," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

"This, coupled with other gaps in information about the
activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed
to the tragic result," he added.

While referring all the questions on the investigations
to the Department of Defence, the White House said it will now
work to improve the level of trust between the United States
and Pakistan.

"More importantly, we will work to improve the level of
trust between the United States and Pakistan countries. We
cannot operate effectively on the border -- or in other parts
of our relationship -- without addressing the fundamental
trust still lacking between us," Hayden said.

Hayden said the United States expresses its "deepest
regret" for the loss of life and for the lack of proper
coordination between US and Pakistani forces that contributed
to those losses.

"We express our sincere condolences to the Pakistani
people, to the Pakistani government, and most importantly to
the families of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed or
wounded," the White House official said.

Earlier in the day, the Department of Defence said it is
willing to offer solatia payments to the families of Pakistani
soldiers who were killed.

PTI