Pak military fire `catalyst` of Nov 26 tragedy: US

Pakistan says the investigations are not credible and lacks transparency, a charge refuted by the US.

Last Updated: Dec 23, 2011, 00:46 AM IST

Washington: The strong fire from the
Pakistani military posts against the US-led NATO military
forces was the "catalyst of the tragedy" last month that led
to the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers, the Pentagon said
on Thursday, indicating deep trust deficit and "misunderstanding"
between them.

The Pentagon remarks came as the US Central Command
(CENTCOM) and NATO both came out with their investigations on
the November 26 incident, concluding that it was mistake on
the part of both the US forces and that of Pakistan.

A briefing from top Pentagon officials indicated the
trust deficit between the two countries as neither of them was
sharing exact location of their movement and the posts even
while there was military-to-military engagement going on.

Meanwhile, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US
Joint Chiefs of Staff, reached out to the head of the Pakistan
Army, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayanai, on the content of the
investigation to which Pakistan had refused to participate.

Pakistan says the investigations are not credible and
lacks transparency, a charge refuted by the US.

"The investigating officer found that US forces, given
what information they had available to them at the time, acted
in self-defense and with appropriate force after being fired
upon," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters
at a special briefing today.

It was 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".

"Nevertheless, 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," Little underlined.

Pentagon Press Secretary Little said "this, coupled with
other gaps in information about the activities and placement
of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result.

In a teleconference with Pentagon reporters from
Florida, the CENTCOM investigating officer Brigadier General
Stephen A. Clark, conceded that "series of miscommunication"
occurred during this tragic incident and there was lack of
trust between the two.

He said it was not the first time that a border incident
has occurred. "There`s subsequently been from previous
incidents a system in place set up to deconflict border
issues, said Clark, who is also Director of Plans,
Programmes, Requirements and Assessments, Air Force Special
Operations Command Moderator.

"Because of the evolving lack of trust, one... from what
is believed and indicated to us, a perception from ISAF that
the Pakistani are unwilling to give or reticent to give full
disclosure on all their border locations, for one," he said.

The investigative officer admitted that "they are under
the impressions that when they have shared specifics, that
some of their operations have been compromised".

The first miscommunication occurred, Clark said when
one of the communication came on the phone: "We are checking
with the BCC, but we are tracking no PAKMIL in the area".

"That was heard at the lower headquarters as "No PAKMIL
in the area," which was then radioed down to the ground force
commander and then also entered into a chatroom -- electronic
chartroom, -- which then began circular reporting back to the
regional command, who then assumed that the lower echelon had,
in fact, validated and confirmed there was no PAKMIL in the
area," he said.

"So in the deconfliction, that`s our first point of
failure that might have helped prevent or at least stopped
this engagement, potentially," the US general said.

Clark said there was confusion during the operation as a
series of telephone calls were going on between US and
Pakistani officials.

"There was no understanding that there were border
positions in the area, people trying to do the right thing,
and nail down specifics so they can take action, caused quite
a bit of confusion," he said.

The General said there was "an over-arching lack of
trust between the two sides as far as giving out specifics,
but it`s also a very specific failure that occurred now that
we have a firefight on our hands."

He said the individual who received that information put
it into his computer.

"Unfortunately, he had his overlay configured
incorrectly. When he attempted to verbally talk on his....to
the area, he described it as at the intersection of the
regional border and the international border, so the district
border and the international border," the investigative
officer said.

"The individual then turned around to look at the
chart, pointed to where the border intersected, and then
started his coordination with h0is higher headquarters to came
back then that there`s no Pakistani military in that area.

"That area that he was pointing to that had been
verbally transmitted to him was 14 kilometres away from the
actual firefight. So that`s our second point of failure of
clarification of where things were going and what was
happening," he said.

Clark said in fact there was a third engagement too.
"About that time there was confirmation and clarification
across the net that in fact there were Pakistani military in
the area and that they were border posts. That word was then
relayed down to the ground tactical leader, who immediately
ceased engagement. And no rounds were fired after that time,
he said.

PTI