Investigation Finds New Information In Airstrikes Probe
Originally published on Fri December 2, 2011 9:30 am
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We're learning a little more, this morning, about a deadly incident in Pakistan. Two dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed when the U.S. called in air strikes during a mission on the Afghan Pakistan border. Pakistan has blamed the United States. One general even called the attack deliberate and said Pakistan warned their soldiers were in the line of fire. The U.S. has offered condolences, but not yet a formal apology, as an investigation continues. And now, U.S. officials are offering their own accounts of what may have happened. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is covering this story.
Tom, good morning.
TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: So, we heard the Pakistani version of events there. What's the American version?
BOWMAN: Well Steve, U.S. officials told NPR earlier this week the Americans notified the Pakistanis before and during the raid. Now the Wall Street Journal has a bit more detail. And U.S. officials I spoke with, confirm the basic outlines.
The Journal's reporting that American commandos contacted a coordination center on the border – and that's manned by Americans, Afghans and Pakistanis. And the Journal says the Pakistani representative at this border center gave the Americans the all-clear sign to strike those positions, saying there were no Pakistani troops in the area. And of course, later we found out, there were Pakistani troops here, they had set up a campsite.
INSKEEP: So, everybody agrees they communicated. The question is going to be, what they said. U.S. officials have said they heard the all clear, and there's another detail here, Tom Bowman. Pakistani officials had said that their border check points, of which this was said to be one, are clearly marked. U.S. officials know the GPS coordinates, know exactly where they are, but U.S. officials now seem to be saying, no, actually, these Pakistanis were in more of a temporary camp.
BOWMAN: That's right. And the Pakistani general told reporters that Pakistan told the Americans, during this raid, to stop – you're hitting our troops. So both counts are still very much different. And now, even with this new story by the Journal - this is very much preliminary – it's coming, again, from the commando unit on the ground that called in these air strikes – it's not the conclusion of the investigation. And the other thing to note at this point, the Pakistanis have been asked to take part in this investigation, but so far, they have not agreed to. And officials also tell NPR, listen, there's a long way to go here. There's a huge amount of information to go through – interviews with those who took part, and perhaps, more importantly, communications laws between the Americans and the Pakistanis. That's key here. It will give a sense of who was told what, at what time.
INSKEEP: Tom Bowman, I want to get a sense of how serious this is. Because, of course, Pakistanis have cut off a major supply route across Pakistan into Afghanistan; they have said, at least, that they're going to drop out of a major conference on the future of Afghanistan – its neighbor. But at the same time, elsewhere in the program today, we're hearing from NPR's Quill Lawrence – our colleague who's on thee Afghan side of the border with U.S. troops – where he's reporting that cooperation with Pakistanis on the ground is continuing. Is this all for show, or is this a serious, near breach in relations, here?
BOWMAN: It is very, very serious. There have been border incidents in the past. There was one six months ago, when American fire injured two Pakistani soldiers. Last year, two were killed by American strikes. So, you know, this time, of course, you're talking about more than two dozen Pakistani soldiers. So this is much more serious than anything we've seen in the past. They have closed the supply routes, in the past, before. But what's going to be interesting to watch, is how long these supply sites are closed. If it goes on weeks or more than a month, then you're going to have problems with supplies for American troops in Afghanistan. So, this is very, very serious.
INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.
BOWMAN: You're welcome, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman on NPR News.
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INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.