U.S. Military Dialogue Continues With Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2012 — The U.S. rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan is impor­tant, and mil­i­tary dia­logue between the coun­tries con­tin­ues despite recent seri­ous set­backs, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle said today.

The Unit­ed States has expressed deep regret over the NATO air strike that killed 24 Pak­istani sol­diers near Afghanistan’s bor­der with that nation Nov. 25–26, and offered to com­pen­sate the fam­i­lies of those killed and wound­ed in the inci­dent, but ground sup­ply routes through Pak­istan remained closed to coali­tion forces in Afghanistan.

“We con­duct­ed a thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion into the bor­der inci­dent, we have acknowl­edged and take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the mis­takes we made on 25–26 Nov, [and] … we have expressed our deep­est regret to the Pak­istani peo­ple, to the fam­i­lies of those who were lost and those who were wound­ed,” Lit­tle said.

“We are hope­ful,” he added, “that our Pak­istani part­ners will reopen the ground sup­ply routes.”

Sup­plies are ade­quate to con­tin­ue the war effort in Afghanistan, Lit­tle said, adding that sup­plies are com­ing into Afghanistan through air routes and through the north­ern dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work, a series of com­mer­cial­ly based logis­tic arrange­ments con­nect­ing Baltic and Caspi­an ports with Afghanistan via Rus­sia, Cen­tral Asia and the Cau­ca­sus.

“The rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan is impor­tant on many lev­els. They’re an impor­tant part­ner, and we coop­er­ate with them on coun­tert­er­ror­ism and oth­er efforts,” the press sec­re­tary said.

“That being said, we know there have been rough patch­es, par­tic­u­lar­ly over the past year,” he added. “But it remains an essen­tial rela­tion­ship, and we’re com­mit­ted to improv­ing that rela­tion­ship over time.”

On Dec. 26, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand released an unclas­si­fied ver­sion of an inves­ti­ga­tion report of the cross-bor­der inci­dent by its inves­ti­gat­ing offi­cer, Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, direc­tor of plans, pro­grams, require­ments and assess­ments for Air Force Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand.

A copy of the report was deliv­ered to the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment, Lit­tle said. Pak­istani offi­cials were invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the inves­ti­ga­tion, but they declined.

Accord­ing to the report, on the night of Nov. 25–26, an Afghan army com­man­do com­pa­ny, part­nered with U.S. Army Spe­cial Forces, land­ed in the Khas Kunar dis­trict of Afghanistan’s Kunar province in an area of oper­a­tions assigned to the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force’s Region­al Com­mand East.

The ground forces were exe­cut­ing an oper­a­tion approved by ISAF Joint Com­mand head­quar­ters when they came under fire from posi­tions on a ridge near the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der.

In self-defense, the report said, they used air sup­port to engage the ridge­line posi­tions.

The air engage­ment end­ed 90 min­utes lat­er and had includ­ed about 45 min­utes of fire. Even­tu­al­ly, it became clear from var­i­ous infor­ma­tion exchanges that those engaged at the ridge were Pak­istani mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

In the ear­ly hours of Nov. 26, the report said, sup­port­ing air­craft pulled back from the bor­der area and Pak­istani author­i­ties rein­forced their bor­der posi­tions and report­ed­ly removed 24 dead and 13 wound­ed.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta has not had con­ver­sa­tions with his Pak­istani coun­ter­parts on the bor­der inci­dent report, Lit­tle said, although Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis, com­man­der of the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, both made con­tact with their Pak­istani coun­ter­parts imme­di­ate­ly after the inci­dent.

“And of course, we have [the Office of the Defense Rep­re­sen­ta­tive] in Islam­abad,” the press sec­re­tary added, which over­sees U.S.-Pakistan mil­i­tary rela­tions, includ­ing train­ing and equip­ment, “and mil­i­tary dia­logue con­tin­ues.”

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

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