The Pentagon has strongly refuted reports that the attack on Pakistani post by NATO forces over the weekend was "intentional", and conceded that US-Pak relationship is going through a very difficult phase.
"Whatever happened over the weekend on the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan is a tragedy. We express regret for it and as well as condolences for the loss of life. In no way shape of form should this be construed as an intentional attack on Pakistan by the United States. That is simply incorrect," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told media persons.
Little was responding to statements from Pakistan which alleged that the US forces intentionally attacked the Pakistani post on the Af-Pak border that resulted in the death of some 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Pakistan is furious over the incident and in retaliation has blocked the NTAO supply route to Afghanistan, boycotted the upcoming Bonn conference and asked US to vacate the secretive Shamsi air base, which is used by the CIA for drone attacks.
"I am not going to comment on precisely what happened. It is important to let the investigation unfold, but the notion that this was an intentional attack on Pakistani military is incorrect," Little asserted.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) is leading the investigation into the incident and has been asked to submit its report by December 23.
Pakistan and Afghanistan has been invited to participate in investigation.
"I would let the investigation determine precisely what happened. No one at this point has the complete narrative," he said.
Little, however, refused to either confirm or deny news reports of US vacating the Shamsi air base as demanded by Pakistan.
"I am not going to comment on Shamsi air base today," he said.
"We are reviewing the full range of factors related to this incident including any request that may have come from Pakistan," he added.
Pentagon officials at the same time conceded that its relationship is going through a very difficult phase.
"Everybody recognises how tough the situation is right now and that the relationship is going through a very difficult period," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt John Kirby told news reporters a news conference.
"This obviously is a very significant incident in itself but, the relationship has been struggling for many many months since the spring.
"Everybody recognises that and recognises how hard it is. But I can also tell you that everybody on the US side particularly the military and this department, even across the US government is committed to having a good strong strategic relationship with Pakistan, which is productive for both sides," Kirby said.
The US wants a constructive cooperative relationship with Pakistan, Little said.
"It is important for the United States and we believe it is important for Pakistan as well. We have shared interest in the region. We realise that there have been bumps on the road in the past, last year especially. We want to smooth the road out we have shown the ability in the past US and Pakistan working together to get past some very difficult situation and it is our hope and desire that we can do the same thing in the current situation," he said in response to a question.