Sat, Dec 24, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Pakistani army rejects US report on deadly airstrikes


The Pakistani army yesterday rejected a US investigation that concluded mistakes on both sides led to airstrikes last month that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and severely damaged the already strained relationship between the two countries.

The response indicates the report will do little to ease tensions, a worrying development for the US because Pakistan’s cooperation is critical for the Afghan War. The Pakistani army has said its troops did nothing wrong and claimed the attack was a deliberate act of aggression.

Pakistan has retaliated by closing its Afghan border to supplies meant for NATO troops in Afghanistan and kicking the US out of a base used by drones. NATO officials have said the closure of the supply route has not affected operations so far, but it would eventually if not reversed.

The army “does not agree with the findings of the US/NATO inquiry as being reported in the media,” the force said in a short statement sent to reporters. “The inquiry report is short on facts.”

The army would provide a detailed response after officials receive the report, it said.

Even though US officials on Thursday accepted some of the blame for the attack on two army posts along the Afghan border and expressed regret for the deaths, they did not apologize for the incident, as many Pakistanis have demanded. Instead, the US said its forces were fired on first from the direction of the posts and acted “with appropriate force” in self-defense.

Brigadier General Stephen Clark, an air force special operations officer who led the investigation, also said in a Pentagon briefing that US forces did not know that the two relatively new Pakistani outposts had been set up on the border.

Pakistan has disputed both of these points, saying its troops did not fire first and that it had given NATO maps that clearly marked where the outposts were located on a mountain ridge in the Mohmand tribal area.

Clark said the heavy machine gun and mortar fire continued even after an F-15 fighter jet and an AC-130 gunship flew over, shooting flares in a “show of force” to signal the presence of US or NATO troops.

“This is key for the ground technical leader’s mindset, in that there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that it’s now coalition forces in the area,” Clark said.

He acknowledged that the US had not informed Pakistan that US and Afghan commandos were conducting an overnight operation in Afghanistan on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26 when the attack occurred.

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