AFPAK border a trust issue, U.S. says

Dec. 27, 2011 at 11:06 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Peace and stability along the Afghan-Pakistan border is based on trust, U.S. military officials said after releasing a report on a deadly November raid.

In mid-December, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would freeze a $700 million military aid package unless Islamabad provides assurances on insurgents in the volatile border with Afghanistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in response said that bilateral ties with the United States "are on hold."

The dispute follows a November incident on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan that left dozens of Pakistani soldiers dead in an accidental NATO-led assault.

U.S. Marines Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, said a basic level of trust was needed on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

"The strongest take-away from this incident is the fundamental fact that we must improve border coordination and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border," he was quoted by the U.S. Defense Department as saying.

An unclassified version of the report said NATO-led forces responded to artillery fire that was later attributed to Pakistani forces. The report found that prolonged fire from Pakistani soldiers made the situation worse.

The Pentagon concluded that "inadequate coordination" between U.S. and Pakistani military officers resulted in a "misunderstanding" about the location of Pakistani forces along the border.

The Defense Department, in a list of recommendations, suggested coordinating the rules of engagement between members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom would promote clarity in the region.

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