Questions Remain After NATO Border Raid

An investigation has been launched into how NATO forces killed two dozen Pakistani troops along the Afghan-Pakistani border. There are many theories about what happened — but few solid facts.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

GUY RAZ, HOST:

And I'm Guy Raz. More now on the deadly attack by NATO forces that killed two dozen Pakistani troops this weekend. Today, as a protest, Pakistan pulled out of an international meeting on the future of Afghanistan. It's scheduled for next week in Bonn, Germany.

The U.S. has called the attack a tragedy. The military has launched an investigation. In a moment, we'll talk with Pakistan's foreign minister, but first, NPR's Tom Bowman explores the many questions about the incident.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: This much is clear: U.S. attack helicopters and war planes hit locations inside Pakistan just before dawn on Saturday killing at least two dozen Pakistani soldiers at border posts. Everything after that is in dispute. American officials say they ordered the strikes after U.S. and Afghan soldiers came under fire from Pakistan.

Pakistan strongly denies this. General Martin Dempsey, the top American military officer, said yesterday that Pakistan has reason to be furious its soldiers were killed by an ally.

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: This one certainly is more serious than any I've been involved with and I've been working issues with Pakistan for the last 10 years. I mean, it's really tragic. You know, we've been working hard to, you know, to better understand each other.

BOWMAN: Like other American officials, Dempsey is trying to calm the Pakistanis. He brushed aside questions about what exactly happened.

DEMPSEY: I don't know enough about the incident.

BOWMAN: Neither does anyone else, or at least they're not saying yet. The military has set up an investigation headed by the U.S. Air Force General with representatives from NATO and the Afghan military. A preliminary report is due in three weeks. There are a lot of questions. Did NATO know what it was shooting at?

A top Pakistani army general says yes, the Americans did know the exact location of the two Pakistani border posts that came under fire. But American officials tell NPR NATO forces were firing at what were thought to be Taliban insurgents near those border posts or that the Taliban had possibly taken over those posts.

Another question: Were the Pakistanis and Americans talking to each other? The Pakistani general said the shooting continued even after Pakistani military leaders alerted American commanders that Pakistani soldiers were taking fire. American officials will only say they were in contact with Pakistan officials before and during the military operation.

Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

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