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Central & South Asia
'No charges' over Pakistan border strike
US military reportedly blames November airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops on "battlefield confusion".
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2012 09:56
An investgation last year found that both Pakistan and the US bore responsibility for the incident [GALLO/GETTY]

The US military does not intend to charge or discipline its officers who were involved in a deadly NATO airstrike on a Pakistani border post last November, a newspaper report from the US suggests.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the US concluded the attack at the Salala checkpost in northwest Pakistan, which killed 24 Pakistani troops, was carried out in self defence.

“We found nothing criminally negligent on the part of any individual in our investigations of the incident,” one of three senior US military sources told the Times.

The sources said, on condition of anonymity, that mistakes and "battlefield confusion" had contributed to the regrettable loss of life, the newspaper reported.

A separate US military official also told the Reuters news agency on Sunday that no US troops would be charged. He did not offer further details about the decision.

The November 26 strike strained relations between Pakistan and the US, and led to the closure of NATO's supply route into Afghanistan.

A US military investigation last year issued a first report that exonerated US troops operating in Afghanistan from inappropriate use of force against the Pakistani forces, even as the US military acknowledged some of the blame in the incident.

Communication failures

"The first report which came out in December last year found that both Pakistan and the US bore some responsibility," Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab reported from Islamabad on Sunday.

The investigation cited communication failures and concluded that the US troops, given the information they had available to them at the time, acted with appropriate force.

"Pakistan reacted very angrily to that [report at the time]. They described the raid as unjustified and unacceptable and categorically denied the US's version of events," Tyab said.

He said there had been no Pakistani reaction to Sunday's newspaper report, but "one would imagine the position on the November 26 bombardment of two of their border postings hasn't changed," he added.

The US has expressed regret for the loss of life during the Salala raid, but the US military investigation blamed Pakistani soldiers for firing first at NATO forces as they prepared for a mission in the remote corner of eastern Afghanistan.

The investigation also conceded a critical error by US troops, who, due to a mapping error, told Pakistan the cross-border shooting was taking place about 14km from the actual location.

Pakistan responded by saying it had no troops there, which led US officers to conclude there was no danger to Pakistani military personnel.

Pakistan's military roundly rejected the US findings which placed any blame on its troops.

Strained relationship

Sunday's report could put further strain on the already complicated relationship between the two countries, our correspondent reported.

"The relationship with the US effectively was put on pause by Pakistan after the November 26 raid," Tyab said.

"Since then, Pakistani lawmakers as well as the military have been meeting as part of a committee to really go through this relationship and re-define its relationship with the US.

"What parliamentarians wanted from the US was an apology. They wanted the US to say sorry for this strike.

"If this newspaper report is true, if the US is not going to make any criminal charges against these officers, then I think we pretty much have our answer from the US, that they are not going to say sorry.

"And it begs the question whether Pakistan is going to hit the play button with this relationship with Washington," he added.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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