Pakistan army rejects US air strikes probe

Pakistan’s army has rejected a US investigation into the Nato air strikes that killed 24 of its soldiers.

Pakistan’s army has rejected a US investigation into the Nato air strikes that killed 24 of its soldiers.

The US report released yesterday said both nations made mistakes that contributed to the deadly incident last month.

But the Pakistani army said today media reports of the investigation indicated it was “short on facts”.

It said a more detailed response would be given when the report was received.

The army has said its troops did nothing wrong and has claimed the attack was a deliberate act of aggression.

Pakistan refused to participate in the investigation and has also retaliated by closing its Afghan border to Nato supplies and kicking the US out of a base used by American drones.

US officials yesterday accepted some blame for the deadly incident that infuriated Pakistani leaders, but did not apologise, despite the embarrassing series of communications and co-ordination errors.

Pentagon officials said yesterday that military leaders had spoken by phone to Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani about the report’s conclusions, but had not yet given him a detailed briefing.

In a Pentagon briefing, Brig Gen Stephen Clark, an air force special operations officer who led the investigation, made it clear that US forces were fired on first and acted in self-defence.

But he acknowledged that efforts to determine who was firing on the US troops and whether there were friendly Pakistani forces in the area – the primary questions in any cross-border incident – failed because US forces used inaccurate maps, were unaware of Pakistani border post locations and mistakenly provided the wrong location for the troops.

There is “an overarching lack of trust between the two sides” that keeps them from giving each other specific details on troops or combat outpost locations, Brig Gen Clark said as he went through a blow-by-blow account of the events that began late on November 25 and continued overnight.

US and Nato commanders, he said, believe that some of their military operations have been compromised when they have given details and locations to the Pakistanis.

According to Brig Gen Clark, US troops were climbing up rugged terrain toward a village just west of the border when they began to receive machine gun and mortar fire very close to their positions.

The US ground commander requested a show of force, so an F-15 fighter jet and an AC-130 gunship flew over, shooting flares to signal the presence of American or Nato troops.

Brig Gen Clark said the gunfire and mortars continued. And in the first serious miscommunication, the troops on the ground were told that no Pakistani troops were in the area. Commanders then called for air strikes.

In a confusing series of communications, US officials gave Pakistan liaison officers the wrong location of the firefight and were told again that no Pakistani troops were in that region.

The US launched another round of air strikes until around 1am, when officials confirmed that there were friendly troops there and the firing stopped.

A key failing, Brig Gen Clark said, was that US troops did not know that two relatively new and spare Pakistani outposts – reportedly called Volcano and Boulder – were just over the border from the village that was the target of the operation.

“They didn’t have co-ordinates on the border posts to begin with because they didn’t know they were there,” he said.

“The border was not considered a factor to the operation because everything was intended to remain within a kilometre (about 0.62 miles), kilometre and a half inside of Afghanistan. So they never anticipated taking fire from the ridgeline, nor anticipated the idea that it might be Pakistan military there.”

He said that as a result the US troops believed enemy insurgents were firing at them. He added that US commanders in Afghanistan would make any decisions on whether anyone should be punished for the mistakes.

“For the loss of life and for the lack of proper co-ordination between US and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses, we express our deepest regret,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

Nato, Afghanistan and Pakistani forces use the joint border control centres to share information and co-ordinate security operations.

The Pakistani military has said it provided Nato with maps that clearly showed where the border posts were located.

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