By John T. Bennett - 12/22/11 11:18 AM EST
American forces acted in self-defense and responded “with appropriate force” in a late-November strike that killed two dozen Pakistani forces and further eroded tensions between Washington and Islamabad, according to a U.S. military investigation.
A monthlong investigation, however, found that poor coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces, as well as inaccurate map data, played a role in the incident.
The U.S. military has completed a much-anticipated investigation into the strike on a checkpoint along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that found American forces did not intentionally target Pakistani forces, the Pentagon said in a statement early Thursday.
The probe “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,” according to the statement.
The investigation, which has been delivered to senior Pentagon officials and shared with Pakistani officials, comes nearly a month after an attack on the checkpoint in Pakistan during the overnight hours of Nov. 25 and 26.
The air strike reportedly killed as many as 24 Pakistani soldiers in the northwestern part of that nation, further cooling the already icy relationship between U.S. and Pakistani leaders.
NATO officials have said Pakistani forces fired on alliance troops, but Islamabad has denied that claim.
The Pentagon’s statement did not address those claims, but it did fault poor coordination by U.S. and Pakistani officials.
“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,” DOD said.
“This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result,” the Pentagon statement said.
“We must work to improve the level of trust between our two countries,” the department said. “We cannot operate effectively on the border — or in other parts of our relationship — without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us,” he said. “We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap."
U.S. military brass will “consider any issues of accountability,” the Pentagon said, an apparent vow to punish any American forces who acted inappropriately — though it remains unclear whether the report points a finger at any American troops.
“Our focus now is to learn from these mistakes,” the Pentagon said, “and take whatever corrective measures are required to ensure an incident like this is not repeated.”
Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, who is assigned to U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, led the probe. He is slated to brief reporters on his findings Thursday morning at the Pentagon.