ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military has issued an uncompromising formal rejection of the United States military’s report last month on a contentious border exchange in which 24 Pakistani soldiers died, dealing a fresh blow to US hopes of reviving a troubled strategic relationship.
In a terse statement, Pakistan’s military press office described the US account of the November 26 exchange as ”factually not correct”, accused the US of failing to share information ”at any level” and rejected any responsibility for the bloody debacle.
The Pakistani military maintained its position that US forces conducting a ground raid in Afghanistan carried sole blame for the clash it said was ”deliberate at some level”. In the exchange, US AC-130 gunships flew five kilometres into Pakistani airspace to engage Pakistani troops they said had attacked a US-Afghan ground patrol across the border in Afghanistan.
It was the Pakistani military’s first public comment on the US report since immediately rejecting it when it was released, nearly a month ago.
The US investigation described a chain of errors, delays and conflicting protocols between US and NATO troops that prevented US warplanes from identifying the Pakistanis as friendly forces until 24 were dead and 13 wounded.
The inquiry also blamed Pakistan, saying its military had failed to inform NATO of the location of new military posts along the long, often poorly demarcated, border.
Pakistan’s military refused to co-operate with the US inquiry, claiming previous US investigations into disputed border attacks had been biased. It rejected any US criticisms as ”unjustified and unacceptable”, adding the US and NATO had ”violated all mutually agreed procedures” for border operations.
In retaliation for the November killings, Pakistan has blocked NATO supply lines through its territory, which are variously estimated to account for 40 to 60 per cent of military supplies reaching Western troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistani military officials say that when the supply lines are reopened, NATO military goods will be subject to a yet-to-be-determined transit tariff. Pakistan has also frozen diplomatic relations in public, although US officials say co-operation continues at lower levels.
The crisis has also affected CIA operations in Pakistan’s tribal belt. In December, Pakistan ejected US operations from an airbase in western Baluchistan used to mount drone strikes.
The drone attacks stopped in December but resumed on January 10. The latest strike was on Monday morning in North Waziristan. Witnesses said a drone fired several missiles at a house, killing four people.
Media reports in Pakistan have suggested Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, was killed in a January 12 CIA strike. But a senior Pakistani intelligence official said on Monday there was ”no confirmation one way or the other”.