Washington: The US forces in Afghanistan
must build greater trust and communications with the Pakistan
Army to prevent "friendly-fire" incidents, a top US commander
has said, amid a diplomatic row following a cross-border NATO
air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
General James Mattis, Commander of the US Central Command
(CENTCOM), directed General John Allen, who heads the US and
NATO forces in Afghanistan, to improve their coordination with
Pakistan and take steps to enhance the level of trust between
the forces on both sides of the porous border.
"Implement a programme of full disclosure of all border
area facilities and installations including installations on
both sides of the border with systematic updates based on a
common data base and map, and incorporating periodic
reciprocal coordination visits," Mattis asked Allen.
"The strongest take-away from this incident is the
fundamental fact that we must improve border coordination and
this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of
the border," Mattis was quoted as saying in a statement.
Simultaneously, the CENTCOM also released the report of
its investigation into the November 25 incident on the Af-Pak
border in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by NATO
forces in a cross-border fire.
The incident resulted in furious reaction from Pakistan,
which retaliated by closing down the Shamsi air base and the
NATO supply route.
CENTCOM, which oversees US military operations across a
wide swath of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia,
said Mattis asked Allen to implement a series of correctives
measures with immediate effect, including establishing an
environment of improved, mutual trust among stakeholders
working in the border areas expanding upon existing
General Allen, who heads the US and NATO forces in
Afghanistan, has also been asked to clarify authorities,
responsibilities, and standard operating procedures for
Command, Control and Communication in near-border operations.
Develop formal individual training, collective training
exercises and drills to practice and gain confidence with
cross-border coordination and deconfliction.
Allen has been asked to direct all future coalition units
and formations contemplating near-border area operations to
establish positive confirmation of all permanent/semi-
permanent installations located near both the boarder and
planned objective prior to the conduct of any operation or
approval of any CONOP.
Gen Mattis, the Commander of CENTCOM, has asked Allen to
develop and share with Pakistan military if possible the
common use of force escalation measures, such as show of force
and such other standard procedures as needed to prevent
friendly fire incidents.
He has also been directed to consider harmonizing, where
feasible, ISAF and OEF Rules of Engagement to promote clarity
A joint US-NATO investigation made public last week
revealed a disastrous spate of errors and botched
communication in which both sides failed to inform the other
about their operational plans or the location of troops.