US accepts responsibility, need to improve trust

Washington: The US accepts responsibility for the mistakes of the "tragic" cross-border NATO strike in Pakistan and wants to take "corrective measures" to improve trust with the country, the White House said today.

The report of an investigation led by a top commander from the US Central Command blamed the November 26 incident on "an over-arching lack of trust" between the two sides. The cross border strike killed 24 Pakistan soldiers.

"We accept responsibility for the mistakes we made," Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson, National Security Council, White House told PTI after the Pentagon briefed the media about the results of its investigation.

Hayden said President Barack Obama had been briefed on the report in the past several days. "With the investigation complete, our focus is to learn from the mistakes that were made and take whatever corrective measures are required to ensure an incident like this is not repeated," she said in response to a question.

The US investigation concluded that the "tragic" incident occurred due to lack of co-ordination between the US and Pakistani forces. At the same time it asserted that the strong fire by Pakistani forces was the catalyst for the incident.

Both the US and NATO investigation, results of which were released simultaneously, reported that the US-led NATO forces acted in self-defence after being fired upon.

"The investigating officer found US forces given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self-defence and with appropriate force after being fired upon. He also found that there was no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military, or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials," Defence Department said.

"The combined international and Afghan force was initially fired upon by unidentified forces, then believed not to be Pakistani military and legitimately responded in self- defence," NATO said in another statement issued from Brussels.

"Inadequate coordination by US and Pakistani military officers operating through the Border Coordination Center, including our reliance on incorrect mapping information shared with the Pakistani liaison officer, resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

"This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result," he added.

While referring all the questions on the investigations to the Department of Defence, the White House said it will now work to improve the level of trust between the United States and Pakistan.

"More importantly, we will work to improve the level of trust between the United States and Pakistan countries. We cannot operate effectively on the border — or in other parts of our relationship — without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us," Hayden said.

Hayden said the United States expresses its "deepest regret" for the loss of life and for the lack of proper coordination between US and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses.

"We express our sincere condolences to the Pakistani people, to the Pakistani government, and most importantly to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed or wounded," the White House official said.

Earlier in the day, the Department of Defence said it is willing to offer solatia payments to the families of Pakistani soldiers who were killed.