U.S. Admits To Some Mistakes In Deadly Pakistan Raid

The U.S. has admitted that NATO forces made mistakes in an operation last month that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

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The United States has admitted that NATO forces made mistakes that led to the deaths of two dozen Pakistani soldiers. The incident happened along the Afghan-Pakistan border in November. Pakistan had claimed the U.S. purposely attacked its troops and the incident contributed to a spiraling deterioration in relations between the two allies. Now, according to the Pentagon's investigation, the United States admits some responsibility for the deadly raid. In a moment we'll have the view from Pakistan.

First, NPR's Rachel Martin joins us to talk about the investigation. Good morning, Rachel.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Now, remind us what happened on November 26, the day of the attack.

MARTIN: On that day, Linda, a ground force that was made up of U.S. and Afghan troops was conducting an operation in the Eastern part of Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. And after that point in the story, things get murky. The U.S. says their team was fired on by forces over a ridge line, so they called in air support and those U.S. helicopters then fired.

They thought they were firing on insurgents. They turned out to be firing on Pakistani forces.

WERTHEIMER: And when it was all over, 24 were dead? What went wrong? The U.S. military is now saying some mistakes were made. What were the mistakes?

MARTIN: Well, initially the U.S. military defended its actions. They said they didn't fire until they had gotten an okay from a regional Pakistani military representative at the border. But after this investigation, the U.S. military has concluded that they are the ones who actually gave Pakistan incorrect information about where the attack was being carried out. So this Pakistani official did give an okay, according to the U.S., but he was led to believe the attack was actually happening nine miles away from the actual site.

So he had told the U.S. that there were no Pakistani troops around there and it was safe to continue the assault.

WERTHEIMER: Does that match up with what the Pakistanis are saying?

MARTIN: Well, there are still some big differences in the story. Pakistan says that the U.S. fired deliberately. The U.S. says that's not true, that their team was fired on first, that they were firing in self-defense. The Pakistanis also say they weren't getting accurate information about the location of the strike; it wasn't specific enough so they couldn't tell the U.S. if there were Pakistanis there or not.

And this really speaks, Linda, to the larger issue here of trust. The U.S. military has been skittish about giving the Pakistanis too much information about their plans over fears they may tip off the insurgent targets.

WERTHEIMER: So Rachel, what's likely to be the fallout from this?

MARTIN: As you know, Linda, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has been deteriorating, ever since the Osama bin Laden raid last spring. And after this most recent attack, Pakistan closed the main supply route for the U.S. military into Afghanistan, kicked the CIA out of a base they used to fly drones. The U.S. is hoping admitting some responsibility will help mend the relationship.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Rachel.

MARTIN: You're welcome.

WERTHEIMER: That's NPR's Rachel Martin.

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