WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2011 — U.S. Central Command will take the lead in investigating the Nov. 26 cross-border attack that killed 24 soldiers in Pakistan, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, requested that Centcom lead this review, the press secretary said.
“ISAF did as you would expect — assign an initial assessment team to look into the incident,” Little said, adding that more information from Centcom “will probably be forthcoming later today.”
While Centcom has not yet officially announced its role in the investigation, the press secretary said, “I think you can expect the investigation to look at the full range of factors that contributed to this tragedy and it will be broad, expansive and thorough.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta offered their deepest condolences for the loss of life in a joint statement issued over the weekend and said they are closely monitoring reports of the incident.
“The secretary has been monitoring these events very closely with military leadership in Afghanistan and here in the United States,” Little said, but has not yet reached out the Pakistani officials.
Clinton, Allen and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, each called their Pakistani counterparts, Little added, noting that Dempsey and Allen each spoke with Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Cameron P. Munter, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, also met with Pakistani government officials in Islamabad.
“The Pakistani government knows our position,” Little said, “and that is that we do regret the loss of life in this incident and we are investigating it.”
Despite increasing conflicts between the United States and Pakistan, including one that followed the U.S. raid on Abbottabad in May that killed Osama bin Laden, Little said, “the focus now is on continuing to engage with our Pakistani counterparts over time, even during difficult periods.”
The Defense Department, he added, has “been working very hard for some time to address areas of disagreement with the Pakistanis. We understand there are deep concerns over the incident this weekend and we’ll continue to try to engage closely with our Pakistani counterparts.”
The relationship is important for the United States, the press secretary added, “and we intend to continue to make that clear to the government of Pakistan.”
A strong military relationship with Pakistan is in both countries’ interests and in the interests of peace and stability of the region, he added.
“That’s where we hope to go in the future,” Little said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)