US admits his fault in NATO raid on Pak-Afghan border
Washington: US officials on Thursday accepted some blame for the deadly incident that infuriated Pakistani leaders, prompting Pakistan to shut down key supply routes for the war and further eroding America’s already rocky relations with Islamabad.
The Defense Department briefed reporters Thursday on the conclusions reached in its investigation into the November incident.
But the US did not apologize, despite the embarrassing series of communications and coordination errors. And as of Thursday afternoon, it had not briefed Pakistani leaders on the results of the investigation.
Pakistan refused to cooperate in the investigation and the US report — placing some of the blame on Islamabad — is likely to only increase their fury, hamper any hope of rebuilding the relationship and delay the opening of the supply routes.
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-defense.
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, Clark said as he went through a blow-by-blow account of the events that began late on Nov. 25 and continued overnight.
US and NATO commanders, Clark said, believe that some of their military operations have been compromised when they’ve given details and locations to the Pakistanis.
According to 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.
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 airstrikes.
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 U.S. launched another round of airstrikes until around 1 a.m., when officials confirmed that there were friendly troops there and the firing stopped.
A key failing, 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.