WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2012 — U.S. officials stand by their assertion that the Nov. 26 attack that resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers was in self-defense, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said here today.
The Pakistani military issued a news release on the findings of its own investigation of the incident, and the Pakistani statement “that it was an unprovoked attack by American forces is simply false,” Kirby said.
The Pakistani assertion directly contradicts the conclusions that U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark released Dec. 22 in his investigation report.
Clark said U.S. forces acted in self-defense and responded with appropriate force after being fired upon. “We stand 100-percent behind the findings of the investigation that General Clark did,” Kirby said.
Clark said the incident was a result of inadequate coordination between U.S. and Pakistani military officers operating through the border coordination center. This includes relying on incorrect mapping information shared with the Pakistani liaison officer, which resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units. Clark’s investigation also concluded that there were other gaps in information about the locations and activities of units on both sides of the border.
U.S. officials invited the Pakistani military to be part of the Clark investigation, but they refused, Kirby noted.
“We said then, and we say again today, that we desired Pakistani participation in the investigation,” Kirby said. “We believed it certainly would have been more thorough if they had participated, but they decided not to.”
The lack of Pakistani officials in the Clark investigation does not change the U.S. belief in the validity of the findings of the investigation, the captain said.
The United States wants to get past the incident and build a good cooperative relationship with the Pakistani military, Kirby said. “We still believe that coordination and communication with the Pakistani military — particularly across that border — remains vital to our success in Afghanistan,” he added.
Pakistan has closed supply lines into Afghanistan that run through the country. “We would like to see the gates reopened. It makes supplying our troops and coalition partners easier,” Kirby said. “But this is a decision that only Pakistani officials can make, and we respect that.”
The relationship between the United States and Pakistan “is in a tough place” right now, Kirby acknowledged, adding that the two nations must work together to move beyond the current difficulties.
U.S. officials have expressed “deepest regrets” to the families of those killed in the incident.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)