|In the wake of the cross-border strike, Pakistan shut down a US air base in Balochistan and halted NATO supplies [AFP]
Pakistan's army has rejected a US military report that claimed that NATO cross-border air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops in November were regrettable but justified.
In a detailed report released on Monday, Pakistan's army said that its troops did not trigger the November 26 incident at two posts along the country's border with Afghanistan..
The report said that Pakistani troops fired on "suspected militant movement" at a location that was 1.5-2km away from the Afghan village where the US troops were operating, adding that such "speculative fire" from Pakistani posts is a regular occurance.
There is absolutely no chance that this fire could have landed even close to US / ISAF GF, let alone being effective," said the report, which was issued in response to a US investigation into that concluded at the end of December.
"Trying to affix partial responsibility of the incident on Pakistan is, therefore, unjustified and unacceptablem" the report said.
"Pakistan does not agree with several portions and findings of the [US] investigation report, as these are factually not correct," the military said in a statement that accompanied the report.
In a report released on December 22, the US had expressed its condolences for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers, but said that US forces acted "with appropriate force" in self-defence, because they believed they were being attacked by Taliban fighters .
|The Pakistani army has disagreed with the US military's version of events in several respects [ISPR]
US forces called in air support to hit the two posts on the Pakistani side of the border, killing the 24 soldiers.
The cross-border strike prompted Pakistan to immediately close its border crossings to supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan and to review its partnership with the US.
It also ordered US military personnel using an airbase in Pakistan to leave the facility.
The US report pointed to a break down of co-ordination procedures, and an incorrect map overlay being used by a border co-ordination centre, as the reasons why the posts were not immediately identified as belonging to the Pakistani military.
The Pakistan army report noted the acceptance of failures by US forces, but said that "US/ISAF [forces] violated all ... mutually agreed procedures [for co-ordination of border operations]".
"It is increasingly obvious to Pakistan Military that the entire coordination mechanism has been reduced to an exercise in futility, is more for the purposes of optics and that it has repeatedly been undermined," it said.
A summary of the Pakistani report's findings suggested that the "incident was deliberate at some level".
The death of the Pakistani soldiers dug in along the mountainous, isolated border area, along with the initial NATO
response, has incensed Pakistanis and marked yet another setback in the United States' efforts to improve chronically troubled ties with an uneasy ally.