WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama sees the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) raid as a “tragedy”, the White House said on Monday, but argued that crisis-wrecked US-Pakistani ties were vital to both sides.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama believed Saturday’s attack, which threw US-Pakistani ties into turmoil, was “a tragedy,” adding that “we mourn those brave Pakistani service members that lost their lives.”
“We take this matter very seriously,” said Carney, adding that two inquiries by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and US Central Command would examine what took place.
“As for our relationship with Pakistan, it continues to be an important cooperative relationship that is also very complicated,” Carney said.
“It is very much in America’s national security interest to maintain a cooperative relationship with Pakistan because we have shared interests in the fight against terrorism,” Carney said.
Pakistan earlier in the day vowed that there would no more be “business as usual” with the United States but stopped short of threatening to break the troubled alliance altogether.
To attend or not to attend the Bonn Conference
US State Department reacting over Pakistan’s indication to reconsider attending the Bonn conference on Afghanistan, says the conference is in Pakistan’s interest as well.
Addressing the press briefing at the State Department, spokesperson Mark Toner said that it was in Pakistan’s interest to attend the conference as the conference’s objective was to have a stable and secure Afghanistan.
In response to a question, Toner said “the US-Pakistan relationship has weathered many storms.” He added that the US was continuing to talk to Pakistan, “we’re stressing on this relationship and this relationship is in our shared national security interests.”
Toner added that there would be two investigations carried out into the incident, but referred reporters back to the Department of Defense on when this inquiry would be completed.
He said that the US is showing its seriousness of purpose into investigating the incident. Toner said that the US was taking this very seriously.
The State Department spokesperson said that the US was concerned about the impact of this incident on the US-Pakistan relationship. He said that the US “recognizes that our cooperation with Pakistan has yielded tangible results. There have been challenges in this relationship and we want to work through it.”
On Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, Toner said that both countries had a critical relationship and had a common enemy. He said that the real goal was to create a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan that isn’t threatened by extremists.
In response to a question on the new Pakistan ambassador to the US, Toner said that many at the State Department knew her and that the United States was looking forward to working with her.
Afghanistan sticks with “self-defense” theory on NATO airstrike
NATO and the United States are trying to limit fallout from the attack but Islamabad has shut vital supply routes to the 140,000 foreign troops serving in Afghanistan.
Pakistan called the strike “unprovoked,” worsening US-Pakistani relations which were already in crisis after the killing in May of Osama bin Laden north of Islamabad by US special forces.
The Wall Street Journal, following a similar report by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, cited three Afghan officials and one Western official as saying the air raid was called in to shield allied forces targeting Taliban fighters.
NATO and Afghan forces “were fired on from a Pakistani army base,” the unnamed Western official told the Journal. “It was a defensive action.”
An Afghan official said the Kabul government believes the fire came from the Pakistani military base – and not from insurgents. Afghan-Pakistani relations suffer from routine mutual recriminations.