Conflict & Justice

US admits errors behind NATO air strike in Pakistan


Pakistani students wave national flags in Lahore on Nov. 30, 2011 in protest of the cross-border NATO air strike that killed two-dozen Pakistani troops.


Arif Ali

The US military has admitted to errors that it said contributed to the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a NATO air strike last month.

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In a statement Thursday, the Department of Defense said its investigation into the Nov. 26 incident had concluded that US forces, "given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon."

Nevertheless, the statement continued:

"Inadequate coordination by US 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. This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result."

According to the Wall Street Journal, the full report says that US and Afghan forces incorrectly concluded that there were no Pakistani soldiers in the area near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where they were conducting an operation.

US forces then gave the wrong coordinates to Pakistan's representative at a border-coordination center, leading Pakistani officials to believe that the fight was taking place some nine miles from the actual location, US military sources told the paper. That mistake meant the Pakistani military was not able to alert NATO that its troops were in the area.

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The Department of Defense expressed regret for the lack of coordination, and the deaths that resulted. There was no apology in its statement, however, as had been demanded by Pakistan.

The findings have been shared with NATO and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said.

The Pakistani parliament was awaiting the results of the US investigation before it makes a decision on whether to reopen NATO supply routes, which it closed in retaliation for the air strike, local news site Dawn reported.

The Department of Defense called for closer cooperation between the US and Pakistan, saying that effective operations on the border or in any area would be impossible "without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us."

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