NATO, Pakistan made mistakes in border incident: probeBRUSSELS: A NATO investigation into an air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers concluded that both alliance and Pakistani forces made mistakes in the incident, NATO said Thursday.
NATO’s military chain of command voiced its “sincerest, heartfelt condolences to the families” of the victims, the alliance said in a statement following the November 25-26 incident which has severely strained US-Pakistani relations.
“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.
The incident heightened tensions on an already fragile relationship, with Islamabad cutting off critical NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and Pakistani officials alleging deliberate US targeting of their troops at the border posts.
Pakistan has sought a full apology from President Barack Obama for the strikes. NATO and US officials have voiced regret over the incident.
Revelations from the military probe placing blame on both US and Pakistani forces could further enrage Islamabad, where officials have maintained their troops did nothing wrong, and did not fire first.
NATO said Afghan and foreign forces “legitimately responded in self-defence” after being initially fired upon by “unidentified forces” that were not believed to be Pakistani military at the time.
“The combined force did not knowingly fire at the Pakistani forces,” it said in a statement issued by its military headquarters in Mons, Belgium.
“The investigation has substantiated that 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 said a thorough review of the operational plan and communications during the incident “substantiate the conclusion that the Pakistani forces were not knowingly targeted and the action of our forces was legitimate within the laws of armed conflict and within their rules of engagement.”
The NATO mission has taken “immediate steps” to avoid similar incidents in the future and is continuously working to improve liaison with Pakistani forces.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan is reviewing the “manning, training, and certification” of Border Coordination Centres that enable NATO and Pakistani troops to communicate.
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 Islamic extremists such as the Taliban as they stood on high ground and had structures.
Obama has telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari to offer his condolences over the strike, but Washington has stopped short of apologising pending the outcome of the military probe. (AFP)
NATO, Pakistan made mistakes in border incident: probe