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U.S. Central Command: NATO attack on PAK forces justified, but mistakes made. DoD offers condolences

Posted Dec 22, 2011 by Howard Altman

Updated Dec 22, 2011 at 08:21 AM

The cross-border attack by NATO forces that killed two dozen Pakistani troops last months was justified because NATO forces came under attack, a U.S. Central Command investigation has found.

But mistakes were made and mistrust between the two forces helped create the situation that led to the killings. Defense officials offered “sincere condolences” to the Pakistani people and the families of those killed, according to a statement released a few minutes ago by the Pentagon, where officials spent the past few days scrambling to get ahead of news, being broken by media outlets, about the report findings that, in the words of the New York Times, would do little to assuage Pakistani outrage at the deaths.

In response, the Pakistani’s shut border crossings, halting the flow of trucks providing supplies to NATO forces.

Centcom, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, oversees the region where the deadly clash took place. On Nov. 28, Centcom commander, Gen. James Mattis, ordered the investigation.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, of Air Force Special Operations Command, will conduct a press briefing at 9:30 a.m.

According to the statement by Pentagon spokesman Capt. John F. Kirby:

The investigation into the 25-26 November engagement between U.S. and Pakistani military forces across the border has been completed.  The findings and conclusions were forwarded to the Department through the chain of command.  The results have also been shared with the Pakistani and Afghan governments, as well as key NATO leadership.

The investigating officer found that U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon.  He also found that there was no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military, or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials. 

Nevertheless, inadequate coordination by U.S. and Pakistani military officers operating through the border coordination center—including our reliance on incorrect mapping information shared with the Pakistani liaison officer—resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units.  This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result.

For the loss of life—and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses—we express our deepest regret.  We further express sincere condolences to the Pakistani people, to the Pakistani government, and most importantly to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed or wounded.

Our focus now is to learn from these mistakes and take whatever corrective measures are required to ensure an incident like this is not repeated.  The chain of command will consider any issues of accountability.  More critically, we must work to improve the level of trust between our two countries.  We cannot operate effectively on the border—or in other parts of our relationship—without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us.  We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap.