Pentagon: U.S., Pakistan Share Blame In Shooting | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Pentagon: U.S., Pakistan Share Blame In Shooting

Play associated audio

The U.S. military said Thursday that U.S. and Pakistani forces both made mistakes in a U.S. helicopter attack that killed two dozen Pakistani troops in November along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The Pentagon released the findings of its investigation that said a lack of trust, miscommunication and faulty map information all contributed to the shooting.

"For the loss of life and lack of coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses, we express our deepest regret," said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, who oversaw the Pentagon investigation, said a team of U.S. and Afghan commandos was on the ground in the eastern part of Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan.

They were about to conduct a raid on an Afghan village when they started getting hit by "very direct and heavy machine-gun fire over their head ... coming from the ridgeline."

Pakistan has been saying that U.S. troops fired first. But the Pentagon's report says the U.S. team fired in self-defense. Clark said the Americans radioed headquarters to ask if there were any Pakistani military in the area. They were told no — so they called in attack helicopters to retaliate.

"They never anticipated taking fire from the ridgeline," Clark said. The American troops thought "this was a hostile force, an insurgent force occupying high ground, shooting down at them."

No Trust, Bad Information

The Pentagon report points out two major problems. First, the U.S. mistakenly gave Pakistan the wrong location of the attack.

As a result, the Pakistanis told the Americans that there were no Pakistani troops in that area. But based on the American information, the Pakistanis were talking about a different area nine miles away from where the shooting was actually taking place.

The second mistake, according to the report, is that Pakistan had not told NATO that it was moving troops into that area in the first place.

Clark says Pakistanis don't always share their troop movements with the U.S., and the Americans doesn't always tell Pakistan about U.S. military plans.

American troops "are under the impression that when they have shared specifics, that some of their operations have been compromised," Clark said.

Little, the Pentagon spokesman, added, "We cannot act effectively along the border or in other parts of our relationship without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us."

Trust between the two sides has been shrinking for some time. There was a stark example in May, when the U.S. did not inform Pakistan about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistani territory.

"If you had had this kind of tragic incident several years ago, there was at least some ballast in the relationship that would have kept things on track," said Dan Markey, an expert on Pakistan with the Council on Foreign Relations.

But now, he says, the relationship is in real jeopardy after the bin Laden raid and a series of other high-profile standoffs between the U.S. and Pakistan. The Obama administration is hoping that by accepting some responsibility for last month's shooting, it can begin to rebuild the relationship with Pakistan.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

At-Risk Salvadoran Youth Make Their Orchestral Debut At Kennedy Center

A youth symphonic orchestra and choir from a high-crime community in El Salvador made their American debut Monday with a performance at The Kennedy Center.
NPR

How Newbie Gardeners Can Safely Grow Food On Urban Land

More and more city dwellers are trying their hand at urban gardening. Most know to be wary of lead in their soil, but fewer are aware of how to avoid other types of contaminants.
NPR

Panned When It First Came Out, The Clinton Logo Is Saying Something Now

The Democratic presidential candidate's campaign logo was snickered at. But it's shown versatility, morphing to include backgrounds of Iowa, New Hampshire and, on Tuesday, to support gay marriage.
NPR

Report: To Aid Combat, Russia Wages Cyberwar Against Ukraine

Cyberwarfare is a hidden world with few documented examples. In a new report, security researchers detail digital attacks against Ukraine's military and charge the Russian military as the hacker.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.