NATO attack: `US forces acted in self-defence`

Last Updated: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 18:54

Washington: Asserting that its US-led NATO
forces "legitimately responded in self-defense" after being
fired upon on November 26, NATO on Thursday said that mistakes were
committed on both sides that resulted in the death of 24
Pakistani soldiers.

"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-defense," NATO said in a statement soon after the US
Department of Defense issued a similar investigation note at
the conclusion of their probe into the incident.

"The investigation has ascertained that a series of
mistakes were made on both sides in failing to properly
co-ordinate their locations and actions, both before the
operation and during the resulting engagement," NATO said.

However, neither of the statements clarified whether they
were talking about separate investigations or the same.

"The combined force did not knowingly fire at the
Pakistani forces. The investigation has substantiated that
close air support was employed in self-defense in response to
intense, heavy machine gun and mortar fire initiated by what
turned out to be Pakistan forces near the border in the
vicinity of Salala," NATO said.

The US-led military grouping said a thorough review of the
operational plan and communications during the incident
substantiate the conclusion that the Pakistani forces were not
knowingly targeted and the action of its forces was legitimate
within the Laws of Armed Conflict and within their Rules of
Engagement.

"Immediate steps have been taken to reduce the risk of
similar incidents in the future. ISAF is also reviewing the
manning, training, and certification of the Border
Coordination Centres to assist in this effort," it said.

The NATO chain of command extends their sincerest,
heartfelt condolences to the families of those Pakistani
Security Force members who were killed or injured in this
incident, the statement said.

The Department of Defense had also expressed its regret.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal in its lead report said
that the US erred in deadly attack.

"The US is poised to concede for the first time that it
bears significant responsibility for last month`s American air
strike that killed 24 Pakistani troops, US officials said, an
admission that is expected to embarrass the American military
but points to a way out of the deepening mistrust between the
two countries," the Journal said.

According to the daily, the military investigation found
that US and Afghan commandos incorrectly concluded there were
no Pakistani forces in the Afghan border area where the
coalition was conducting an operation on November 26.

That assessment cleared the way for an air strike that
devastated Pakistani positions, it said.

"After the initial strike, the US compounded its mistake
by providing inaccurate data to a Pakistani military
representative at a border-coordination center, missing an
opportunity to stop the fighting, these people said," the
daily reported.

The WSJ said the new report`s conclusions uphold key
portions of Pakistan`s version of events.

It also conflicts with some early US accounts, which said
Pakistanis gave an all-clear that opened the way for the most
deadly friendly-fire incident of the 10-year Afghanistan war.

The NATO attack had triggered an angry reaction in
Pakistan and the government closed all NATO supply routes and
forced the US to vacate Shamsi airbase in Balochistan
province, which was reportedly used by CIA-operated drones.

Pakistan has now sought "new terms of engagement" with US
that guarantees the country`s sovereignty and ensures that
there is no unilateral action like the raid that killed Osama
bin Laden.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 18:54

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