US investigation sees shared blame in Pakistan air strike

 

A US investigation today found that both American and Pakistani forces were to blame for an incident that killed 24 Pakistani troops in a remote area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border last month, inflaming already strained bilateral ties.

The US military blamed Pakistani soldiers for firing at Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan, triggering the incident, which took place overnight between 25-26 November.

But the US investigation also conceded a critical error by US troops - telling Pakistan the cross-border shooting was taking place about 9 miles away, due to mapping error. Pakistan responded by saying it had no troops there.

"Inadequate coordination by US and Pakistani military officers operating ... resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units," Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

"This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result," he said.

The death of the Pakistani soldiers dug in along the mountainous, remote border area, along with the initial Nato response, has incensed Pakistanis and marked yet another setback in the Obama administration's efforts to improve chronically troubled ties with an uneasy ally against militants.

The incident prompted Pakistan to shut down ground routes used to supply US forces in Afghanistan and to demand that the United States vacate an air base used to launch drone flights within 15 days. Suggesting the strike may have been intentional, Pakistan has angrily waited for a formal US apology.

Little expressed regret over the deaths.

Brigadier General Stephen Clark, who headed the military US investigation, said US aircraft including fighter jets and attack helicopters came under fire late on the night of 25 November as it approached an Afghan village right over the Pakistani border for a routine mission.

After the Nato forces began receiving mortar and machine gun fire from a ridge area, US officials and a Pakistani border liaison officer embedded with Nato forces concluded - acting on an erroneous analysis of where the firefight was taking place - that no Pakistani military involved so they returned fire.

Part of the problem, Clark said, were instructions to US soldiers not to directly share details of their geographic assessments with their Pakistani liaison officers - a symptom of what he called "an overarching lack of trust" on both sides.

When US forces sought a precise location of allied soldiers from a commander in Pakistan, the exchange further illustrated mutual wariness, Clark said.

"When asked, the (Pakistani) general answer back was, 'Well, you know where it is because you're shooting at them,' rather than giving a position."

In a statement released today, Nato said that a "combined international and Afghan force was initially fired upon by unidentified forces, then believed not to be Pakistani military, and legitimately responded in self-defence."

US officials said they would offer to brief the Pakistani government on the findings of the investigation and were ready to pay compensation to victims' families.

US officials said General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a "professional and cordial" conversation with General Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistani military, about the report last night.

Pakistan refused to take part in the investigation, which Clark said had hindered a deeper understanding of the incident.

The friendly fire incident is only the latest of a series of bilateral crises in the past year, including the US raid that killed al Qa'ida leader Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil in May and the arrest in Pakistan of a CIA contractor.

It is unlikely the conclusions of the report will placate Pakistani military leadership in the charged climate following the incident.

Yet US officials said they would now focus on improving communication with Pakistan and avoiding a repeat of such bloodshed.

"We cannot operate effectively on the border, or in other parts of our relationship, without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us," Little said.

"We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap."

Reuters

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
music
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes