US admits fault in Pakistan border attack
December 22nd, 2011
06:21 AM ET

US admits fault in Pakistan border attack

By Chelsea J. Carter

The US military investigation into a November airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops found poor coordination between the two militaries and incorrect information played a significant factor, according to a Department of Defense statement released early Thursday.

The finding is likely to further erode relations between the United States and Pakistan, which have steadily declined since a secret raid by American commandos that killed Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan's military has repeatedly insisted the November 26 airstrike near the Afghan border was deliberate, and the Pakistani government ordered the American military to vacate an air base used to launch drone strikes.

"The investigating officer found that U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon," the Department of Defense said in a statement posted on its web site.

"He also found that there was no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials."

The investigation, though, also found there was "inadequate coordination" by U.S. and Pakistani military officials operating at a border coordination center, the statement said.

Among the coordination issues identified in the investigation was a reliance by NATO forces on "incorrect mapping information shared with a Pakistani liaison officer, it said.

"This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result," the statement said.

The Defense Department said the findings of the investigation have been shared with the Pakistani and Afghan governments as well as key NATO leadership.

The Defense Department statement said the focus now is to learn from mistakes.

"More critically, we must work to improve the level of trust between our two countries. We cannot operate effectively on the border - or in other parts of our relationship - without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us. We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap," the statement said.

In an effort to preempt the results of the investigation, the Pakistani Embassy in Washington last week invited reporters for a detailed briefing on the incident.

The Pakistani officials at the briefing argued that well-established operating procedures and an intricate system for operational information sharing were deliberately ignored, which led to the tragic incident.

American officials have told CNN that U.S. forces checked first with their Pakistani counterparts before launching the strike. Before calling in airstrikes, the U.S. forces checked with a Pakistani liaison team. They were not seeking permission - because the airstrikes were described as a matter of self defense - but were making sure Pakistani troops weren't in what was called a poorly marked border area, the officials said.

After that consultation, the U.S. forces believed there were no Pakistani forces nearby, which turned out not to be true.

Here is the full statement:

The investigation into the 25-26 November engagement between U.S. and Pakistani military forces across the border has been completed. The findings and conclusions were forwarded to the Department through the chain of command. The results have also been shared with the Pakistani and Afghan governments, as well as key NATO leadership.

The investigating officer found that U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon. He also found that there was no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military, or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials.

Nevertheless, inadequate coordination by U.S. and Pakistani military officers operating through the border coordination center - including our reliance on incorrect mapping information shared with the Pakistani liaison officer - resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units. This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result.

For the loss of life - and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses - we express our deepest regret. We further express sincere condolences to the Pakistani people, to the Pakistani government, and most importantly to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed or wounded.

Our focus now is to learn from these mistakes and take whatever corrective measures are required to ensure an incident like this is not repeated. The chain of command will consider any issues of accountability. More critically, we must work to improve the level of trust between our two countries. We cannot operate effectively on the border - or in other parts of our relationship - without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us. We earnestly hope the Pakistani military will join us in bridging that gap.


Filed under: Afghanistan • NATO • Pakistan • Pentagon
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. sidney kye

    As long as it took for creation to happen and we r destroying it with n a fraction off them. We r killing everthing that we was ment to b and what for the thing that hold no real vaule is vauled when n fact we all no this but r just cought up n the webs lie's that made life

    Wake up befor one day we wake and fight for what u no n the heart and freethinking mind is rite do be slave to a world wide problem deseption and insepetion

    December 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  2. sidney kye

    Just bye seeing some of the remarks some of my fake fellow us citizen u would have we would have a common goal the better ment for all man kind u And if u say u would go to church rite after u take a life then my friend that church is rite for u u say there and i will stay away from u and hope that one day ur eye really open to whats going on around u in what that way of living is doing to us as county and what it is doing to i really america in what part n the constiution does it say that its ok to kill anyone and have the balls to call yourslef an america. My friend im sorry to say if r four fathers was here they would b ashamed on what u and me have become. All u have to do is look around at eye open its not had to c we as natiton r week n spirt and strenght and we let or goverment controll us and use us u no what we let them do what ever they want way becuse we have no solid foundation anymore we no r depinding on or goverment.when it are goverment needwe the people the most it needs reconstuction.

    December 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  3. usarmy

    All I got to say is Osama bin Laden was hiding and killed in Pakistan. Pakistan credit worthy of information is crap. Maybe the US needs to grab Pakistan by its legs and shake them around a bit and see who else they are hiding...

    December 23, 2011 at 9:48 am | Reply
  4. C H Koh

    The US needs human target for their drome bombing practices.
    The Pakistanis come in handy since death of Ms Bhutto.
    It will go on with false justifications and excuses as well as blames unless stopped.
    The "erroneous bombing" of the PRC embassy in Belgarde,the fictitious claims of Saddam Hussiens WMD,the shooting down of an Iranian pessenger plane etc etc bared the fangs and revealed the tail of the US who is donning angels clothes.

    December 23, 2011 at 1:12 am | Reply
  5. Michael

    So sick of every story on the cnn front page of bombs in muslim countries....can't we just nuke them

    December 23, 2011 at 12:53 am | Reply
    • glenn robert

      Yes we could nuke them, and you would still go to church on sunday.

      December 23, 2011 at 3:32 am | Reply
    • Bob

      But Muslims can also make you glass in return.

      January 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply
  6. Awabnavi

    "Would you trust the Pakistanis?" - The question should be "Does the WORLD trust the US"? And the answer is a RESOUNDING NO.

    December 22, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Reply
    • glenn robert

      I am a US citizen and your answer is correct!

      December 23, 2011 at 3:34 am | Reply
  7. rk from NY

    this fake apology plus some dollars thrown into pakis begging bowl....leads to pakis opening up nato supply routes, accept drone strikes...in other words business as usual ...hahahah

    December 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  8. Joe Murphy

    Yeah that was a screwup, thanks to mistrust on both sides. Would you trust the Pakistanis? I wouldn't...no offense but it is what it is...we know a percentage of funding that goes to/through the Pakistanis winds up in the hands of Al Qaida. Same with sensitive information. I question who this uneasy alliance benefits, as well as the purpose of it: presently for the sake of Pakistan providing transportation routes to Afganistan. I have still not yet heard a rational reason as to why we are there (in Afganistan) in the first place...our involvement here represnts a huge cost and for what? Talk about willfully, intentionally, knowingly and repeatedly taking our eye off the ball.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  9. khan

    Some one needs to be held accountable – we spend Trillions of dollars on spy satelites and are armed with modern navigation devices where we dont mis our targets even by a centimeter- but we dont know the border where we are operating for 10 years ? hmmm – if it was a private company and some one did not know what to do after working there for 10 years, what will happen to them ????? they will hear " YOU ARE FIRED!!!!!!!" from Donald Trump. So all this BS about they did not tell us and we did not know is just part of the circus to fool the common people. All the bloodshed and human suffering on the name of terrorism is a way for Pakistani and Americans involved to get rich. Army generals and contractors and making millions- poor people are dying. Yet the whole world is acting as a by stander and enjoying the 3D video games of wars on their XBOX and PS3. Its about time some one is put thru the justice system and charged with MURDER!!!!! and it does not matter if its Paksitani army or NATO- some one needs to pay.

    December 22, 2011 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Mike

      Hate to break your bubble but the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Durand Line, is a product of surveys done by the British in the 1890s. It isn't precise to even hundreds of meters, as evidenced by Pakistan setting up bases and building border fences hundreds of meters inside what Afghanistan claims to be their territory over the last 10 years. The Pashtun tribes who live along the line don't acknowledge the existence of the border, as it divides their traditional homeland. Even with all that, once those on the Pakistani side of the border (be they Taliban, Army, or ISI) opened fire on U.S. troops inside Afghanistan, they became targets under the ROI. They were given a warning "Show of Force" which clearly showed them they were shooting at NATO forces. The firing continued and the result was dead Pakistanis. By the way, while we're checking borders, just where is Abbottabad and why was Osama bin Laden killed there? Inaccurate maps again?

      December 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  10. Nadim

    At lease we – the U.S. – had the Kahoonas to admit we made a mistake and apologize. I haven't seen any apologies coming out of the Pakistanis for the innocent people they have killed over the years in and around the Afghanistan borders.

    December 22, 2011 at 9:30 am | Reply
    • Mike

      I don't recall any big apology for hiding Osama bin Laden in Pakistan for at least 6 years either. The Pakistani investigation into how this happened is now focused on how the U.S. found out he was there and how the U.S. raid when undetected, not how, why, and by whom he was allowed to be there.

      December 22, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Reply
    • Bob

      Where is apology ?

      January 4, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Reply
  11. Awabnavi

    "our reliance on incorrect mapping information" - The WEAKEST of arguments. The US operating for 10 years in those areas relying on INCORRECT MAPPING INFORMATION? The question is are the generals FOOLS or LIARS? As for me I choose the latter.

    December 22, 2011 at 9:29 am | Reply
  12. Muz

    @ "our reliance on incorrect mapping information": I guess the US needs to remap its approach towards the whole world in general!

    December 22, 2011 at 7:13 am | Reply

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