When the Pakistanis called U.S. commanders to implore them to stop, the Americans refused to reveal the exact coordinates of the airstrikes because of the “overarching lack of trust,” according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark, who conducted the investigation. Instead, U.S. forces transmitted a “general location,” which Clark said turned out to be wrong.
Despite the acknowledged mistakes, the investigation found that “U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self-defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
Little said there was no “intentional effort” to target the Pakistani military or to “deliberately provide inaccurate location information.” But he expressed “our deepest regret” for the deaths.
“We cannot operate effectively on the border — or in other parts of our relationship — without addressing the fundamental trust still lacking between us,” the White House said in a statement. “The lesson going forward is that we need to broaden cooperation and increase understanding between our two countries.”
Neither the investigation nor the expression of regret is likely to satisfy Pakistan, which has called for a U.S. apology and said the attack — three airstrikes, over 90 minutes, by an AC-130 gunship and Apache attack helicopters — was deliberate.
In a brief text message, the Pakistani military said it “does not agree with the findings of the US/NATO inquiry as being reported in the media. The inquiry report is short on facts. Detailed response will be given as and when the formal report is received.”
In response to the air attack, Pakistan shut one of the vital border crossings NATO uses to ship supplies into Afghanistan and recalled some of the military liaison officers who work alongside NATO officials in Afghanistan.
The decision to ascribe fault to both sides and express only regret exacerbated tensions between the Pentagon and the State Department. Diplomats had appealed to the White House to issue a presidential apology and had pushed for more conciliatory language in summing up the findings.
Little said the United States would provide Pakistan with the report, which was described by Clark in a Pentagon news conference but not publicly released. Defense officials said payments would be offered to the families of the 24 deceased Pakistani soldiers.