US, Pakistan share blame for NATO attack: Reports

Published: December 22, 2011
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US investigating officer finds US forces acted in self defense, 'given what information available at the time'. PHOTO: REUTERS/ISPR

US investigating officer finds US forces acted in self defense, 'given what information available at the time'. PHOTO: REUTERS/ISPR

WASHINGTON: The American and Pakistani forces both are to be blamed for the November 26 Nato airstrike that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead, revealed a United States investigation.

American and Western officials on the condition of anonymity told New York Times that retaliation from allied forces of US and Afghanistan was justified because the Pakistani forces initiated the fire.

The officials revealed that Nato did not inform Pakistan that they were about to launch an operation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. This resulted in the Pakistani forces opening fire on them.

The Wall Street Journal said that the military investigation revealed that the US-led forces had presumed that no personnel from the Pakistani forces were present when they launched the operation.

A US military official also said that “the overarching issue that surrounds this incident is a lack of trust” between the US and Pakistan.

Revelations from the military probe, placing blame on both the US and Pakistani forces, could further enrage Islamabad as, since the incident, Pakistan has maintained that the move on its part was justified and that Pakistani forces did not fire the first shots.

The American and Western officials said that the US military investigation report also shunned the accusations from Pakistani forces were “intentionally and repeatedly” targeted by the allied forces on November 26.

The officials also revealed that the United States Central Command had planned not to release the findings from the investigation this week because they were still in the phase of deciding what parts of the investigation could be made public and which should remain classified.

In Washington last week, a Pakistan embassy official said Nato forces could not have mistaken the two border posts on the Afghan border for bases of the Taliban as they stood on high ground and had structures.

The Pakistani official had declined to speculate on the US motivations for any alleged deliberate attack.

Inadequate coordination, incorrect mapping caused NATO airstrike: DoD

The United States (US) Department of Defense’s (DoD) investigation into the airstrike on November 26 that led to the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers says “inadequate coordination by US and Pakistani military officers operating through the border coordination center,” including the US’ reliance on “incorrect mapping information shared with the Pakistani liaison officer — resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units.”

In a press release issued to announce the completion of the investigation into the airstrike, DoD said that there were other gaps in information as well about the units’ placement that led to this incident.

The Nato airstrike on November 26 on the Pak-Afghan border has led to a near breakdown in relations. Following the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in the incident, Pakistan closed down Nato supply routes, asked US to vacate the Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan, and has demanded that the relationship be redefined.

According to the report, the US investigating officer found that the US forces acted in self defense, “given what information they had available at the time.”

The investigating officer found that the US forces had responded with “appropriate force after being fired upon.”

The report into the incident also says 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.”

The US Department of Defense says that the results of the investigation have been sent to the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as to the key Nato leadership.

“For the loss of life — and for the lack of proper coordination between US 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,” said the Department of Defense.

The DoD has also said that they must work on improving the level of trust between US and Pakistan.

“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,” said the US DoD.

NATO says both sides committed mistakes, actions legitimate

Nato, while expressing its condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the airstrike, says that their investigation has found that, “the 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.”

“The investigation has ascertained that a series of mistakes were made on both sides in failing to properly co-ordinate their locations and actions, both before the operation and during the resulting engagement.”

Adding that the force did not knowingly fire at the Pakistani forces, Nato says “close air support was employed in self-defence in response to intense, heavy machine gun and mortar fire initiated by what turned out to be Pakistan forces near the border in the vicinity of Salala.”

Nato also says that after a review of its operational plan and communications, it did not knowingly target the Pakistani forces, and Nato’s actions were “legitimate within the Laws of Armed Conflict and within their Rules of Engagement.”

In its press release, Nato says that ISAF is reviewing the “manning, training, and certification of the Border Coordination Centres.

Nato added that they are working to improve liaison with the Pakistani forces, “we are determined to work harder to ensure these incidents do not occur.”

Earlier on Wednesday, on the issue of the NATO supply routes, Pentagon spokesperson Captain John F. Kirby told the Express Tribune, “To date, there has been no appreciable impact to logistics inside Afghanistan.  Gen. Allen is confident that he can support the mission.  That said, the supply routes through Pakistan are important, and we would certainly like them to re-open.  That’s a decision only the government of Pakistan can make.”

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Reader Comments (35)

  • Ahsan J
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:10PM

    I am not pleased by the language used by DoD.. it some how puts blame on our end aswell.

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  • Mark
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:11PM

    What is this?!
    USA/NATO are claiming that they were responsible for the raid, albeit due to some communication gap.
    What does it say about the Pakistani investigation, where we are absolving the USA/NATO and pinning all the blame on Afghans and Indians? Is this the most convenient way out for us? If so, we must atleast alert the Americans, not to accept any part of the blame now. Otherwise, the whole thing will become a joke!

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  • Roflcopter
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:15PM

    Pak Army rightly said nothing was expected from this useless “investigation” by US.

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  • Hu Jintao
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:15PM

    another anonymous official from new york times which is known for its anti-pakistan bias.

    bottomline is NATO/US deliberate attack killed 25 Pakistani soldiers in their well known checkpoint inside Pakistan territory for two hours.

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  • Rafe Hafeez
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:21PM

    And we thought we could make them apologize? I mean please. A country where people lift off chairs from…. oh never mind :) hopeless.

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  • Pakistani
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:23PM

    Just a joke. .

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  • Ali
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:29PM

    The history is the evidence that USA never accepted blame of their foolishness and aggression, whether it was Veitnam, Nuclear attack on Japan, A Big Lie of WMD, etc. etc. etc. I have left the smaller incidents like conspiracy to attack UK and its foreign arm in order to boost US economy etc.

    US trying to cover the real issue. The real issue wasn’t the border firing incident. The real issue was Aerial strike. They have preferred to ignore THAT real issue.

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  • Qazi
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:41PM

    A wise urdu quote goes like ” ulta choor kotwal ko danty ” after a blatant act of agression, NATO is trying to share the blame. The only solution to deal with US and NATO is diplomatic ut off. Lets bring China into our close quarters..

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  • wonderer
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:44PM

    @Mark

    What have the Indians done?

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  • Boy
    Dec 22, 2011 - 5:51PM

    Ahh so again the ego comes into play.

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  • Mard-e-Haq
    Dec 22, 2011 - 6:03PM

    What happened to that RAW/Afghan conspiracy? The US report states that Pakistani fired first. Who gave the orders to fire first, if indeed this is true? Who was the commanding officer? Both sides are covering up.

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  • Iron hand
    Dec 22, 2011 - 6:10PM

    As predicted, the usual suspects on this site, when faced with information which doesn’t fit their world view of conspiracies and evil designs, simply dismiss that information as false. No need to read the actual report rather than media summaries, no need to think about logic, motives, etc. Guys like helicopter, ju jitsu, whatever your names are, aren’t fooling anyone. You are propagandists for extremism and anti-americanism, pure and simple.

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  • KH Mian
    Dec 22, 2011 - 6:14PM

    @Ali:
    Well deserved smack in Pakistan’s face for forgetting its national interests and allying itself inconditionally with rogue USA/NATO/ISAF Western alien and non law abiding terrorist Fascist States with Imperial dreams.

    USA is lying, cheating and decieving as usual (remember Raymond Davis was a Diplomat as lied by President Obama and the State Secretary Clinton?). One does not attack a clearly visible (even with mediocre night-vision glasses/instruments) army post located openly on a ridge as an encampment terrorists.Recommend

  • Dec 22, 2011 - 6:41PM

    Its “Actually DISGUSTING” to see how the American Media makes their people believe that “US is the GOOD-GUY and Rest-of-the-World are BAD GUYS”… And it uses different “PLOTS” for proving that in different regions.
    For Latin America and South America, they have the “DRUG Trade Baaooooo”….
    For Vietnam & Korea, they had/have “Communism Baaoooooo”….
    For Middle East (except the OILY Sheikh-doms), they have the “Democracy Baaooooo”…. For Iraq, they had “WMDs Baaaooooo”…..
    For Afghanistan / Somalia / Yemen, they had/have “Al-Qaeda / Al-Shabab Baaooooo”…..
    For Iran, they have “Nuclear Baaooooo”…..
    For Pakistan, they have “Haqqanis + Nukes Baaooooo” …….
    Why is America “At War” or “Preparing for War” with the WHOLE WORLD???

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  • Afghan
    Dec 22, 2011 - 6:52PM

    It pretty much defies the conspiracy theories that the Afghans with their Indian friends actually prompted this incident. [Sighs]

    By the way, the DoD report sounds realistic and based on the ground facts. The commanders on the ground do have this problem of inaccuracy with their maps and coordination. They can see everything from the sky but usually fail to identify structures and other terrain features.

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  • Jadugar
    Dec 22, 2011 - 7:21PM

    Wow The NATO and the American forces needed 2 hours of action to defend themselves against an Army much less equipped and trained. Yet being partners in the war they couldn’t find time to communicate, lately it seems that NATO and the American have taken up the profession of Spinning stories..

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  • HollyCow
    Dec 22, 2011 - 7:21PM

    Before our little Indian wieners get on their high horses consider this. The Pakistam military dismissed the report of Afghan/Indian collusion.

    This explanation sounds perfectly plausible. The only thing that the army has to answer honestly is that did it open fire thinking the NATO troop were Taliban terrorists?

    Pakistan has badly bungled its strategic partnership with the US. It was in Pakistan’s interest to have gone after these terrorist just as hard as our erstwhile partners desired. Are we not reaping our rewards in Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi? Today we would have been living in peace and security. Recommend

  • Dec 22, 2011 - 7:23PM

    @ Tribune Editors:

    How can you run a headline suggesting that the ‘US and Pakistan share the blame for the airstrike’ when the report clearly places the majority of the blame on the US?

    Even if Pakistan troops fired first, the fault still lies with the US/NATO because:

    1. Pakistan was not informed of US/NATO operations in the area, and given the timing of the operation (late night), Pakistani troops cannot be blamed for firing (if they did) at suspected militants

    2. NATO/US troops on the ground (or the planners of that particular operation) were incompetent to the point that they did not realize the presence of two Pakistani posts whose location had been communicated to ISAF

    3. NATO/US coordinators for the ground troops and/or air-strikes were incompetent to the point that they did not realize that they were directing air-strikes onto two Pakistani positions whose location had been communicated to ISAF

    4. NATO/US ground troops/coordinaters violated ROE and called in air-strikes on Pakistani territory, when they should have FIRST checked with the Pakistani liaison officers to verify the presence of Pakistani troops in the area

    5. NATO/US troops were incompetent to the point that after violating ROE and the proper process of communicating with Pakistani military authorities, they provided the wrong coordinates to Pakistan and continued the air-strikes.

    That last part about the wrong coordinates is extremely puzzling – how could the air-strikes be called in on the correct coordinates, but the incorrect coordinates be provided to the Pakistani authorities?Recommend

  • Saim Baig
    Dec 22, 2011 - 7:25PM

    We don’t trust this report.

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  • Dec 22, 2011 - 7:26PM

    @ Afghan:

    The ISPR immediately denied the ‘RAW/Afghan conspiracy’ – that story was a BBC issue, not a Pakistani one.

    Perhaps Pakistan was justified in banning the BBC then, since we now have two examples of absolutely poor, biased and conspiratorial reporting from the BBC:

    “Secret Pakistan
    “RAW and Afghan conspiracy to destroy US-Pak relations”
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  • Dec 22, 2011 - 7:28PM

    What will happen with the Pakistani liaison officer?

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  • Mark
    Dec 22, 2011 - 8:17PM

    @ wonderer..

    Plz refer to this report below. I was led to believe it was the RAW and Afghans after all, who were responsible…..and the Americans were innocent. But here the Americans themselves are taking the blame!
    http://tribune.com.pk/story/308841/afghan-commander-orchestrated-nov-26-attack-report/

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  • Mark
    Dec 22, 2011 - 8:33PM

    @ Agnostic Muslim………….how is banning the BBC going to help us brother? We can choose to keep our eyes shut, but the whole world is watching us nevertheless.

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  • Mark
    Dec 22, 2011 - 8:53PM

    And what is this white piece of cloth on the tree( shown in the photo)?
    Who put it up….our soldiers?
    If yes, then when did this happen….before or after our 25 soldiers were martyred?

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  • CK
    Dec 22, 2011 - 9:12PM

    Here is what I gather:

    You are required to inform Pakistan in advance about patrols which you did not.
    You said you did not know where the Pakistani posts were but weren’t they marked on the maps you had?
    So when you get there and you are fired upon because they don’t know who you are because they were not informed.
    In return you bomb them for 2 hours.

    And the conclusion is that you share the blame for the attacks? Am I missing something?

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  • Pragmatist
    Dec 22, 2011 - 9:18PM

    @Ahsan J:
    Maybe that is the truth !! But then who wants to know the truth anyway.

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  • Pragmatist
    Dec 22, 2011 - 9:21PM

    @Agnostic Muslim:
    First of all, kudos on your nick. I didn’t think an ‘Agnostic Muslim’ existed in this world. It is refreshing to know that he does.

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  • Nahi Maanta
    Dec 22, 2011 - 9:44PM

    Nahi Maanta

    NY Times, this newspaper, all are part of the same propaganda machine put in place by the USA, to cover up real issues.

    What is ET? The Pakistan Edition of New York Times.

    Don’t expect anything good Paksitanis.

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  • R S JOHAR
    Dec 22, 2011 - 10:24PM

    @Mark:
    Your suggestion is a bit too late since the two different versions issued by US has already become some kind of a joke especially in stating involvement of RAW and Afghanis which the Americans visualised would go well with the Pakistanis was outrightly rejected by the ISPR. However Americans would be too naive to admit that it was a delibrate act to teach Pakistan a lesson.

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  • narayana murthy
    Dec 22, 2011 - 10:41PM

    So RAW/Afghan conspiracy was in fact a conspiracy in itself.

    It’s so easy to sell anything anti Indian in Pakistan.

    I think, Pakistan’s economy/industry/production/manufacturing sector will boom if they start manufacturing anti-India cars, anti-India hairpins, anti-India two wheelers, anti-India laptops, anti-India tooth picks, anti-India tooth paste, anti-India printers, anti-India paints, anti-India bricks, anti-India cement, anti-India tooth brush, anti-India cell phones, anti-India medicines, anti-India hard disks, anti-India kerchiefs, anti-India discs, anti-India cords, anti-India biriyanis, anti-India TVs…

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  • Parvez
    Dec 22, 2011 - 11:00PM

    Pakistani soldiers dead : 24 , NATO (US) soldiers dead : 0 .
    Blame being shared by both sides – considering the sides involved settlement seems about right.

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  • Dec 22, 2011 - 11:11PM

    “Pakistani soldiers dead : 24 , NATO (US) soldiers dead : 0 .”

    Dozens or hundreds of NATO soldiers are believed to have died at the hands of Pakistani-supported insurgents. Does that count for something, or is it merely a “zero”?

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  • Malik
    Dec 22, 2011 - 11:40PM

    What a investigation !!!
    There were two post 1. Volcano Post which was near the border about a km from Pak-Afghan border 2. Bolder Post, about 2km from Pak Afghan border. Now firstly…….it was night and Pak army night vision devices are upto 1100meters of range…….so there vision at night was till maximum of 1100 meters. Secondly if at all the afghan troops were fired upon from these two posts with machine guns……whats the range of our machine guns……Its 800meters…….that means either the Aghan army has already entered Pak border at night without informing and were close to these posts or their claim is false.
    Beside this if US and Afghan Army after 10 long years of war with Talibans, thinks that Talibans have made posts on top of mountains with boundary walls and CGI sheets at top of the bunkers then…….God be with them…… I think they are far far from ground realities…….its better for them to leave.Recommend

  • MarkH
    Dec 23, 2011 - 3:19AM

    @Malik:
    Who cares about the machine gun range? I know if I’m being fired at I’m not going to wait until I know I can be hit for sure to respond to it. As long as it’s pointed in my general direction it would be all I’d care about. It’s also highly unlikely the Pakistani side had some kind of magical ruler to judge the distance perfectly. It’s not weapon range that would dictate them opening fire. It would be fired even before they came in range to make sure they can’t get any closer than they already are if it’s viewed as life or death aggression they’re facing. It’s all about soldier perception. Not your excuses.

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  • Tony Singh
    Dec 23, 2011 - 1:00PM

    Now that Pak Army has taken their share of blame, Americans please unfreeze Pak Army’s $700million aid.

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