As I reported on Wednesday, although the joint NATO-Pakistan investigation of the deaths of Pakistani soldiers at a border post concluded on Tuesday, no joint statement had yet been issued. Dawn had listed the areas of disagreement that were delaying release of a statement. Late Wednesday, both NATO and the US Embassy in Pakistan released statements on the investigation and the incident, presumably signaling that no joint statement will be forthcoming. A review of Dawn’s list of areas of disagreement in light of the released statements shows that all but one of Pakistan’s demands were met. Pakistan had insisted that NATO take responsibility for the attacks and deaths, but neither the NATO nor US Embassy statement does so. A Washington Post story this morning provides more details on the sequence of events in the attacks on the border post, lending support to Pakistan’s account of what happened.
In their article describing the disagreement over issuing a joint statement arising from the joint investigation, Dawn explained that NATO had drafted a statement and submitted it to the Pakistani Army, which had then drafted its own version to send back to NATO. The two sides were then in discussions on how to reconcile the versions into a single release. Here is the description of the points of disagreement:
The source said there was an agreement that Pakistan’s airspace had been violated.
As Isaf intends to describe the violation by an air weapons team as an action in self-defence, Pakistanis want the Isaf command to acknowledge that the event was avoidable.
The Pakistani side wants that Nato accept responsibility for the incident and agree on remedial measures through better coordination.
Pakistanis are adamant that Isaf should apologise for the incident, but the coalition forces are only ready to express regrets and offer condolences to the families of the soldiers killed in the strike.
Note that the statements from NATO (issued through ISAF) and the US Embassy do admit the helicopters were on the Pakistan side of the border and that the Pakistani soldiers were firing warning shots, not firing at the helicopters. Both statements also apologize for the event and call for better coordination with Pakistan, but no acceptance of responsibility is to be seen.
Here is the ISAF statement, in full:
A joint Pakistan military-International Security Assistance Force team has completed their initial assessment into a border incident in which two Pakistan border forces were killed and four were wounded, Thursday.
The team concluded two coalition helicopters passed into Pakistan airspace several times. Subsequently, the helicopters fired on a building later identified as a Pakistan border outpost, in response to shots fired from the post. The assessment team considered it most probable that they had fired in an attempt to warn the helicopters of their presence. Unfortunately, following the engagement, it was discovered that the dead and wounded were members of the Pakistan Frontier Scouts.
“We believe the Pakistani border guard was simply firing warning shots after hearing the nearby engagement and hearing the helicopters flying nearby,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Tim Zadalis, ISAF IJC director of air plans and assessment team leader. “This tragic event could have been avoided with better coalition force coordination with the Pakistan military.”
“ISAF offers its deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, to the Pakistan military, and the people of Pakistan,” said ISAF Commander General David H. Petraeus. “We deeply regret this tragic loss of life and will continue to work with the Pakistan military and government to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
No responsibility there. And now the US Embassy in Pakistan statement in full:
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson today extended an apology to Pakistan on behalf of the American people for the terrible accident on September 30th, which resulted in the deaths of two Pakistani Frontier Scouts and the injury of four others.
Ambassador Patterson said that a joint investigation of the incident had established that the U.S helicopters had mistaken the Pakistani Frontier Scouts for insurgents they had been pursuing. "We extend our deepest apology to Pakistan and the families of the Frontier Scouts who were killed and injured" said the Ambassador. "Pakistan’s brave security forces are our allies in a war that threatens both Pakistan and the U.S."
The Ambassador noted that the U.S. will coordinate with the government of Pakistan to prevent such tragic accidents from taking place in the future.
Again, no responsibility here. However, this statement refers to the deaths as "accidents". Given the new details released by the Washington Post, "accidents" seems to be a stretch:
U.S. and Pakistani officials viewed 21/2 hours of overhead video as part of the probe. The senior Pakistani military official said that it showed that the Frontier Corps post was on the Pakistani side of a hill, about 200 yards across the border, and was not visible from the Afghan side. The helicopters approached from inside Pakistan, apparently returning from what the coalition said was a strike on a Taliban position preparing a cross-border mortar attack.
The Frontier Corps position was well known to U.S. forces, the official said. The two sides exchange grid coordinates of each post every six months, most recently in June, and the one in question had been in place since 2005. The video, he said, shows a Pakistani soldier raising his rifle in the air and firing a warning, not toward the helicopters. After the 5:30 a.m. attack on the post, the official said, U.S. helicopters returned to the area about 9 a.m. and fired seven more missiles.
How can the deaths be "accidents" if the border post was properly noted on NATO maps and the two attacks were three and a half hours apart? Wouldn’t that be enough time to consult the maps at least one more time before flying across the border again and firing seven missiles?
Meanwhile, drone attacks and tanker burnings continue at a pace where recounting individual events becomes meaningless. The Torkham crossing also remains closed.
[Note: the video (h/t harpie) above is from Dawn and was first released as part of this article. The video itself is not particularly informative, but the key part of the article says of the video that it "shows Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) aircraft hovering over the security post before blowing it up". Taken along with the same account of multiple attacks in today's Washington Post, a very consistent account is emerging.]