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Pak army rejects NATO probe into air strike incident

January 23, 2012 21:53 IST

Punching holes into a United States probe report of the cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year, the Pakistan army on Monday rejected it saying the country was considered in an "adversarial role" and not as a friend during the American inquiry.

"Pakistan does not agree with several portions and findings of the (US) investigation report as these are factually not correct," said a terse statement from Inter-Services Public Relations, the media arm of the military.

Noting that the US investigating team's mandate "was to conduct an operationally focused fact-finding investigation into the circumstances surrounding the engagement between friendly forces and PAKMIL (Pakistan Military)", the statement said it was implicit in this mandate that "Pakistan was considered in an adversarial role and not part of friendly forces".

The Pakistani military further noted that the mandate given to the US investigating officer did not include "affixing specific responsibility" for the air strike.

"Without this specific mandate, the investigation report could not have been complete," it said.

The "fundamental cause" of the NATO air strike of November 26 was the "failure of the US/ISAF to share its near-border operation with Pakistan at any level", the statement said.

"This obviously was a major omission, as were several others, like the complicated chain of command, complex command and control structure and unimaginative/intricate rules of engagement as well as lack of unified military command in Afghanistan," it said.

Pakistan had reacted angrily after 24 soldiers were killed and 13 more injured when NATO helicopters and combat jets from Afghanistan targeted two military check posts in Salala area of Mohmand tribal region.

Islamabad shut down all NATO supply routes and forced the US to vacate Shamsi airbase, which was reportedly used by CIA-operated drones.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced shortly after the attacks that it could not be "business as usual" between Pakistan and the US.

Acting on Gilani's instructions, a parliamentary committee has framed over 30 recommendations for the revamp of bilateral relations.

A joint session of parliament is expected to debate these recommendations next month.

The military statement said the Pakistan army had received the US investigation report on the Salala incident on December 24.

The report was analysed by the Pakistani military to "reiterate facts and correct the perspective".

The military accused the US and International Security Assistance Force of violating "all mutually agreed procedures with Pakistan for near-border operations put in place to avert such uncalled for actions".

It alleged that the US and allied forces in Afghanistan "carried out unprovoked engagement of Pakistani posts located inside Pakistan, violating the US/ISAF mandate which is limited to Afghanistan".

The US report is structured around the argument of "self-defence" and "proportional use of force" but this argument is "contrary to facts", the Pakistani military said.

"Continued engagement by US/ISAF despite being informed about the incident at multiple levels by Pakistan military within minutes of initiation of US/ISAF fire, belies the 'self-defence' and 'proportional use of force' contention," it said.

"Affixing partial responsibility of the incident on Pakistan is, therefore, unjustified and unacceptable," the statement said.

Experts said the Pakistani military's reaction to the US report reflected the strains in bilateral relations.

Islamabad recently rejected US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman's request to visit the country, saying a trip would not be "productive" till the parliamentary review of ties is completed.

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