Pakistan, U.S. stand by their accounts

Jan. 24, 2012 at 12:14 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Pakistan and the United States stood by their accounts Monday of the NATO airstrike in which 24 Pakistani soldiers died, causing deeper strains in relations.

The Pakistani military formally rejected the findings of a U.S. investigation into the Salala airstrike incident, saying the argument in the U.S. report of "self defense" and "proportional use of force," is contrary to facts, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

The report said the fundamental cause of the Nov. 26 incident was the failure of United States and NATO's International Security Assistance Force to share its near-border operation with Pakistan at any level.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said Monday U.S. officials stand by their findings the incident was in self-defense and errors were made by both sides. He said the Pakistani statement "that it was an unprovoked attack by American forces is simply false."

In a U.S. investigation report released Dec. 22, Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark said U.S. forces acted in self-defense and responded with appropriate force after being fired upon. Clark said the incident was a result of inadequate coordination between U.S. and Pakistani military officers operating through the border coordination center.

"We stand 100-percent behind the findings of the investigation that Gen. Clark did," Kirby said.

Kirby said Pakistani military declined an invitation by U.S. officials to be part of the Clark investigation. He said the United States wants to get past the incident and build a good cooperative relationship with the Pakistani military.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States plunged after Nov. 26 to a point that Islamabad closed its routes to supply NATO forces in Afghanistan and as yet they have not been reopened.

The Pakistani military said the United States and ISAF had violated all mutually agreed procedures with Pakistan for near-border operations put in place to avert such uncalled for actions, APP reported.

The Pakistani rejection of the U.S. findings is another setback to U.S. efforts to revive the strategic relationship with Islamabad, The New York Times said.

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