DOD Works to Repair Pakistan Relationship

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 — Coop­er­a­tion with Pak­istan is essen­tial to the Unit­ed States, and the Defense Depart­ment is work­ing hard to shore up the dam­aged rela­tion­ship, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle said today.

Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle and Navy Capt. John Kir­by brief reporters at the Pen­ta­gon, Dec. 2, 2011.
DOD pho­to by Erin A. Kirk-Cuo­mo
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The coun­tries’ pre­car­i­ous affil­i­a­tion rup­tured Nov. 26 when a cross-bor­der attack by NATO forces at a bor­der coor­di­na­tion cen­ter in Afghanistan’s Kunar province killed 24 Pak­istani sol­diers. “The rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan remains very impor­tant to the Unit­ed States,” Lit­tle said dur­ing a brief­ing for reporters here held with Navy Capt. John Kir­by, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for media oper­a­tions. “We think coop­er­a­tion with Pak­istan — on a vari­ety of fronts, to include coun­tert­er­ror­ism — is essen­tial.”

Acknowl­edged “bumps in the road” in the U.S.-Pakistani rela­tion­ship over the past sev­er­al months. “But we’re going to work very hard … with our Pak­istani coun­ter­parts” to ease the lat­est con­flict, said he added.

An inves­ti­ga­tion of the inci­dent has begun, led by the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand and with Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark from the Air Force Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand head­quar­ters at Hurl­burt Field, Fla., as the inves­ti­gat­ing offi­cer. Clark is ordered to pro­vide an ini­tial report on the inci­dent by Dec. 23.

NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force and the Afghan and Pak­istani gov­ern­ments were invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the inves­ti­ga­tion, Lit­tle said, but the Pak­ista­nis so far have elect­ed not to par­tic­i­pate.

In retal­i­a­tion for the attack, Pak­istan has closed two routes through that coun­try that NATO uses to move sup­plies to troops in Afghanistan, among oth­er steps.

“We cer­tain­ly look for­ward to work­ing with Pak­istan to get those gates back open,” Kir­by said, “[but] logis­tics is about alter­na­tives, it’s about options, and we’re cer­tain­ly work­ing through what sort of options we may need to pur­sue.”

Mean­while, Kir­by said, “we’re going to make sure that our troops have what they need when they need it.”

So far, he added, the route clo­sures have caused “no appre­cia­ble impact on our abil­i­ty to oper­ate inside Afghanistan.”

Pak­istan has demand­ed an apol­o­gy for the dead­ly attack, accord­ing to news reports.

“We’ve expressed our remorse and our regret for loss of life [in Pak­istan] at the high­est lev­els of this depart­ment, and oth­er agen­cies as well,” Kir­by said.

“What we aren’t going to do is get into affix­ing blame or fault right now,” he added. “There is an inves­ti­ga­tion going on, and we need to let that inves­ti­ga­tion pro­ceed, [to] let the facts take us where they may.”

Lit­tle said the Defense Depart­ment is work­ing over­time to try to resolve dif­fer­ences between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan on this and oth­er mat­ters.

“Let me say in the strongest pos­si­ble terms that this was not in any way, shape or form an inten­tion­al attack by the Unit­ed States mil­i­tary on Pak­istan,” the press sec­re­tary said, not­ing spec­u­la­tion to that effect in media reports at home and in Pak­istan.

“The rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan, as I’ve said before, is absolute­ly crit­i­cal and essen­tial,” Lit­tle said. “We are part­ners with the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan, and the sign of strength in any rela­tion­ship is how we work through very seri­ous dis­agree­ments and inci­dents.”

“An inci­dent like this draws into sharp relief the risks and clear­ly the poten­tial for things to go awry,” Kir­by said, “but there are innu­mer­able days that have passed where we’ve been able to con­duct oper­a­tions close to that bor­der and things have gone well.”

The Defense Depart­ment believes in the impor­tance of such bor­der coor­di­na­tion cen­ters and in con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion and coor­di­na­tion with the Pak­istani mil­i­tary, he added.

“Our hope and our expec­ta­tion is that, as bad as this is, … we’ll be able to con­tin­ue the kind of coor­di­na­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion that we were work­ing up to before this inci­dent hap­pened,” Kir­by said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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