Mistrust, confusion led to NATO airstrike: Pentagon

Published: December 22, 2011
Clark says that Nato failed to give precise information to Pakistan about its positions during the operation. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

Clark says that Nato failed to give precise information to Pakistan about its positions during the operation. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon finally lifted the veil on investigations into the controversial Nato airstrike, but offered little surprise. And to Pakistan’s disappointment, nothing they were hoping for was said.

The briefing, however, raised questions over the thoroughness of the process – Nato’s investigating officer did not know the name of the check-post where the airstrikes took place.

US Air Force Special Operations Command Brigadier General and the Nato airstrike Investigating Officer Stephen Clark said
a lack of trust and series of miscommunications contributed to the events that took place on November 26, the day a Nato airstrike claimed the lives of 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Briefing reporters at the Pentagon via phone, Brig Gen Clark said there was an overarching lack of trust in giving Pakistan precise information about the US positions during the operation — following a general sentiment expressed during interviews conducted in the investigation that Isaf operations in the past are believed to have been compromised when Pakistan was told specifics about US positions. On the other hand, Brig Gen Clark also said Pakistanis themselves have been reticent to full disclosure of specific locations.

Meanwhile, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little also told reporters that US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey and General Mattis have called Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

“We are going to share our findings with the government of Pakistan.”


Outlining the events of November 26, Clark said the mission, which was to be conducted by nearly 120 personnel, was intended to remain within the Afghanistan border, and that the US forces never anticipated that Pakistani military would be stationed there. Clark said that when US forces came under fire, there was a lot of confusion from both sides.

According to the Air Force commander, the ground force officers had been told that there were no Pakistani military in the area, but they were re-checking.

“This the first point where we found a series of miscommunications to have occurred. That was the first point of failure which might have potentially stopped this engagement,” he said.

The US forces believed it was insurgents firing at them from the higher ridge. He added that the US forces ceased engagement after they were told that there were border posts in the area. No rounds were fired after that information was given, he added.

Clark said that the investigation was conducted principally out of Bagram, with visits to the Nawa Border Coordination Centre and Kabul. Sixty interviews were conducted for the purpose of this investigation.

Responding to a question, the Air Force commander said: “Lack of Pakistani participation in this investigation is regrettable, and is a significant and important part missing from this report.”

Nato, while expressing its condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the airstrike, said 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 coordinate their locations and actions, both before the operation and during the resulting engagement.” Nato said its actions were “legitimate within the Laws of Armed Conflict and within their Rules of Engagement.” “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 Defence.

However, in late breaking news, it was being reported that the US, through a statement by the White House, had accepted responsibility for the attack.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2011.


Do you believe Pakistan shares equal blame with the US for the NATO airstrike?

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Reader Comments (35)

  • naeem hussain
    Dec 22, 2011 - 10:01PM

    I am not surprised on the out come of the inquiry of the Americans. Every time they kill innocent people around the world they never admit it. No country has killed more innocent people around the world more than America in last sixty years. America is the worst terrorist in the world.Recommend

  • hedgefunder
    Dec 22, 2011 - 10:28PM

    Its the most likely reason, as it was not in the interest of NATO to directly launch an attack on Pakistani troops, however its not going to be accepted by anyone in Pakistan as they simply have already reached their own conclusions, without any enquiry in the matter !!!
    Any way Pakistanis are about to engage in their own political upheaval in coming days, for them to be concerned about this !!! Its old news !!!


  • Dec 22, 2011 - 10:46PM

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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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?


  • Dec 22, 2011 - 10:49PM

    This report is nothing but yet another white-wash by the US Military-Intelligence Complex to hide their sins.

    Millions killed across the world by ‘American exceptionalism’ in the US pursuit of ‘American National Interests’ at all costs – from Latin America to Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.

    Will our ‘liberals’ finally wake up and realize they are worshiping at the altar of a mass-murdering colonialist regime that cares nothing for the consequences of its actions so long as ‘American interests are advanced’?


  • MarkH
    Dec 22, 2011 - 10:59PM

    @naeem hussain:
    Really. Have a look at your own society one of these days. Wars bring death, Pakistan and its militants bring death every day of the year no matter if it’s considered by people to be peace time or not.


  • MarkH
    Dec 22, 2011 - 11:02PM

    @Agnostic Muslim:
    So NATO is the only one that is required to use their brains. Thanks for putting a long suspected circumstance out in the open as fact.


  • Dec 22, 2011 - 11:09PM

    Mistrust and mutual HATERED led to the attack. Not miscommunication. Adml Mullen’s statement just before his leaving office speaks for the US side and both Pakistan govt and army’s statements speak for Pakistan side.


  • Dec 22, 2011 - 11:14PM


    “So NATO is the only one that is required to use their brains.”

    In this case, yes, since NATO/US did not inform Pakistan of conducting night time operations in a region where Pakistan forces had come under large-scale attacks from Taliban sanctuaries on the Afghan side.

    For the US to ‘use its brains’ would have required the US to abide by the agreements and mechanisms agreed upon and put in place to prevent such events – namely, informing the other side of military operations close to the border to prevent misunderstandings, communicating with the other side through established mechanisms before calling in air-strikes, providing the proper coordinates etc. etc.

    Given the series of so called errors made by the US side, even someone ‘not using their brains’ would have probably done better …


  • Dec 22, 2011 - 11:16PM


    “Wars bring death”

    The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been ‘wars of choice’, initiated by a trigger happy, warm-mongering imperialist US regime/military-industrial complex.

    The party with the primary responsibility for these wars and all this death and destruction is the US political and military leadership.


  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Dec 22, 2011 - 11:36PM

    America is an innocent killer.

    The past, present and the future will remain the same.

    The killer who kill people without knowing them.

    What a joke.


  • CK
    Dec 22, 2011 - 11:57PM

    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?


  • Mirza
    Dec 23, 2011 - 12:37AM

    The US general has given more info and accepted more blame than Pakistani army did after May 2 or any other incident. This was the first set of info as the time goes by more facts with proof come out. It is not like the proverbial mushroom treatment of Pakistani establishment . We had imposed a gag order after we surrendered East Pakistan. Noting ever is leaked out let alone talked and interogated by the reporters. Recommend

  • Kashi
    Dec 23, 2011 - 12:42AM

    NATO is a terrorist group of USA, watch this heading in youtube “Childs Family Killed by NATO Bombing in Brega, 31.03.11, NATO Crimes In Libya”


  • David
    Dec 23, 2011 - 12:44AM

    Lesson number 1: If you shoot at Americans you die.
    That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
    Next time the Pakistanis will think twice about opening fire upon 120 heavily armed soldiers.
    Trained American soldiers look and act like soldiers, not like a ragtag bunch of insurgents. Did they, like, just fly in on helicopters? Who could all these people be, viewed through night vision goggles, on the border of a country defended overwhelmingly by Americans ?
    What a bunch of trigger happy, arrogant clowns to open fire on an American operation.


  • SmeMyself
    Dec 23, 2011 - 12:51AM

    Mutual mistrust and greed! I think the world should just go home and close their eyes while these self appointed “chosen people” in the middle east sort themselves out. Africa is doing well or not!


  • hedgefunder
    Dec 23, 2011 - 12:53AM

    If they were being bombed for 2 hours, as stated, then where was Pakistani back up????
    Where was the communications link? or the Back up forces or Air force, in case this was a real hostile attack rather than friendly fire, which resulted in disastrous outcome as the toll was very high !
    It simply does not make sense and there are too many questions which Pakistani Army needs to address to, as so far there has been nothing but political noises and stopping of supply routes closure of Air base etc…
    The real question is what exactly is Pakistanis Army’s own take of situation, rather than what is being told to public .


  • Delhi_Se
    Dec 23, 2011 - 1:04AM

    NATO and USA blundered this time. I am amazed why they simply cannot admit it and move on instead of sticking to their egos. By the way nice try by NATO forces to try and suggest RAW involvement which was denied by ISPR and for the first time Pak Army did not buy this. Some sign of hope after all eh ?


  • Delhi_Se
    Dec 23, 2011 - 1:19AM

    @Agnostic Muslim: Agree with you brother wars brings death and it is always more innocent civilians rather than invading / defending army itself. But so does terrorism. In war a battlefield is defined you would be careful not to step in the hot grounds where there is a fire fight, there by at least having chance to save your life, they can at least relocate and take refuge away from troubled areas. In terrorism the whole world is battlefield, it can happen anywhere anytime and the doomed have no chance to defend themselves. When a government responsible for not just it;s citizen but also as a responsible member of the world fails to check extremism and subsequent terrorism which can spread and attack any part of world, then other countries are forced to retaliate to save their people. Willingly or unwillingly Pakistan had become hot bed of terrorism and every major terrorist attack had traced it’s roots to Pakistan an undeniable fact which is not acceptable to Pakistanis. It is humiliating to accept I agree, but it will save many lives including their own if they take a stance. I am sure world will not mock it or finger point it but will rather collaborate with it to root out all terrorists. In long run it will benefit the common people of the country. A simple truth somehow Pakistani’s fail to understand. They are willing to destroy their country rather than facing an “imaginary idea” of getting humiliated against India. For God sake for once stop keeping India in perspective and do what is right for your own people. My above suggestion does not mean in any way that you should allow your sovereignty to be hurt. A big NO. Hurting someone’s pride has never yield good results. But it is indeed high time Asian countries form a union and put stop to this animosity going on in past 60 years


  • Usman
    Dec 23, 2011 - 2:07AM

    ET, your poll is outrageous. You’re definitely not acting like a Pakistani newspaper. Shame


  • NA
    Dec 23, 2011 - 3:30AM

    It was a pre-planned assault on Pakistan by US to provoke Pak to isolate herself from Afghan reconciliation process with Taliban. It is evident that after US-India strategic partnership, India has a greater role in future of Afghanistan where Taliban will be the part of new Govt.


  • Cautious
    Dec 23, 2011 - 4:14AM

    The Pakistani spokesperson explaining the reason for Pakistan’s disagreement, claimed that the US report was “short on facts”.
    The American’s offered a joint investigation — that would allow joint interviews of all soldiers involved — you turned that down which creates the impression that you didn’t want the American’s to interview your soldiers. When you stonewall an investigation you loose credibility.


  • numbersnumbers
    Dec 23, 2011 - 5:07AM

    Key Points to consider about these investigations:

    1) “In response to a question, the Air Force commander said that the lack of PAKISTANI PARTICIPATION in this investigation was regrettable, and is a significant and important part missing from this report.”

    2) “The Pakistani spokesperson explaining the reason for Pakistan’s disagreement, claimed that the US report was “short on facts”.

    3) Pakistan had declined a US, NATO invitation to jointly investigate the matter.

    Conclusion: Pakistan wants to criticize the report as being “short of facts” that the very same Pakistan has refused to provide!


  • Harry Stone
    Dec 23, 2011 - 8:05AM

    The real issue is mistrust. This is not going to change over time. NATO has every reason to mistrust PAK. PAK has been playing a double game so long even we cannot tell which side we are on.

    Does anyone actually believe that the PAK military would publish such a report being so critical of itself? I think not.


  • vasan
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:35AM

    OK Green card counter is open now for the “eligible” families.


  • AsliShalsi
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:39AM

    Still coming with that old useless arguments. NATO clearly knew the location of those posts as several meetings from the Pak Army and ISAF were conducted there. More lies from the US.


  • Fn723
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:45AM

    Dear, there was almost no mention of Pakistan when it came to terrorism before 9/11. I know many innocent poeple lost their loves that day, but there was no Pakistani involved in the attack. We, Pakistanis are paying the price of aiding US in the so-called-war-on-terror.
    What do you expect people to do after you bomb them when they’re innocent? This war has created these militants. Now answer, did Americans find any WMD’s? NO right?
    There is no doubt that US has killed more innocent people and done more damage than any other country. By the way it is the only country to have actually used the atomic bomb. and that’s just one example. Go and check the number of countries invaded by US over the last 50-60 years.


  • Zalim singh
    Dec 23, 2011 - 9:56AM

    so what is new?


  • Feroz
    Dec 23, 2011 - 10:49AM

    The gist of the issue is lack of trust. Whenever the target has been identified and conveyed to the Pakistan Military, the terrorists have been tipped off and excuse given that information given was false. This has been happening for years. If any proof is provided the usual claim is it is inadequate. There are many nations contributing forces to stabilize Afghanistan, none have a kind word for Pakistan because of deceit and duplicity. Should not Parliament questions its security forces why this perception is so widespread ?


  • antanu
    Dec 23, 2011 - 10:55AM

    If it is so then why this HOLIER THAN THOU attitude by US?


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Dec 23, 2011 - 11:03AM

    @naeem hussain:

    Every time they kill innocent people
    around the world they never admit it.
    No country has killed more innocent
    people around the world more than
    America in last sixty years

    It’s a case of friendly fire and in a war, it’s known to happen.

    When it comes to admitting to truth, Pakistan is yet to apologize to Bangladesh massacres. And if you consider the last 1400 years (instead of last 60 years) with respect to the global population, it’s not America that ranks first in killing , enslaving and persecuting the innocent.Recommend

  • anon
    Dec 23, 2011 - 11:06AM

    NATO just made another big mistakeRecommend

  • maz3tt
    Dec 23, 2011 - 11:54AM

    wow no word of mistake yet , confusion biggest super in the world and confused


  • Truthbetold
    Dec 23, 2011 - 12:25PM

    @Agnostic Muslim:

    “Even if Pakistan troops fired first, the fault still lies with the US/NATO because:
    Pakistan was not informed of US/NATO operations in the area, …..”

    May be true, but do you wonder why US/Nato might not have informed Pakistan? In the past, Pakistani army had been warning the terrorists of impending Nato attacks and helped them vacate the area. So, it is the mistrust developed due to Pakistan’s double games that is at fault here.


  • narayana murthy
    Dec 24, 2011 - 1:03PM

    @Naeem Hussain who says “Every time they kill innocent people
    around the world they never admit it.
    No country has killed more innocent
    people around the world more than
    America in last sixty years “

    I think, Pakistan has killed more innocent people than America in the last 60 years. Don’t you remember 1971?


  • G. Din
    Dec 25, 2011 - 1:56AM

    @Fn723: to MarkH
    “By the way it is the only country to have actually used the atomic bomb. and that’s just one example.”
    Are you foreswearing the use of your own “nooklear bum”? If you are, what was the point of eating grass but getting the “bum”? If you are not, then how can you blame US for using it. In a war, everyone uses the resources one has, to shorten the war or minimize casualties. Ostensibly, you will follow the same policy. Therefore, your bitching about America dropping the bomb is morbidly disingenuous.


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