Pakistan Rejects U.S. Account of November Clash
Pakistan’s military on Monday issued an uncompromising formal rejection of the United States military’s report last month on a contentious border exchange of fire that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, dealing a fresh blow to American hopes of reviving a troubled strategic relationship.
In a statement, Pakistan’s military press office described the American account of the Nov. 26 exchange as “factually not correct,” accused the United States of failing to share information “at any level,” and rejected any responsibility for the bloody debacle, in which American AC-130 gunships flew two miles into Pakistani airspace to return fire after Pakistani troops attacked an American-Afghan ground patrol across the border in Afghanistan.
It was the Pakistani military’s first public comment on the American report since immediately rejecting it at the time of the report’s release, nearly a month ago.
The American investigation, led by Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark of the Air Force, described a chain of errors, delays and conflicting protocols between American and NATO troops that ultimately prevented the United States warplanes from identifying the Pakistanis as friendly forces until 24 were dead and another 13 injured. It also ascribed blame to Pakistan, saying the 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 cooperate with the American inquiry, claiming that previous American probes into disputed border attacks had been biased. The Pakistani military published its own report on Monday, 25 pages long and described in the title as “Pakistan’s perspective” on General Clark’s report.
The military rejected any American criticism on Monday, describing it as “unjustified and unacceptable,” and adding that the United States and NATO had “violated all mutually agreed procedures” for border operations.
Pakistani fury is a product of genuine public outrage at the killings, which American officials privately admit were largely their fault, and deep-rooted hostility to America.
But it is also driven by a desire on the part of the Pakistani military to deflect attention from the embarrassment of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2. “They’ve been preparing this a long time,” said a senior American official. “It is not coming out of the blue.”