Fri December 2, 2011
U.S. Officials Say Pakistan Gave Go-Ahead For Airstrikes
"Pakistani officials at a border coordination center gave the go-ahead to American airstrikes that inadvertently killed 24 Pakistan troops, unaware that their own forces were in the area, according to U.S. officials briefed on the preliminary investigation," The Wall Street Journal reports this morning.
A Pakistani official quoted by Reuters says that's not true.
As NPR's Tom Bowman said earlier today on Morning Edition, the Journal's story adds detail to the American side's account of the Nov. 26 incident that has rocked already shaky U.S.-Pakistan relations. Tom had previously reported that U.S. officials said they had been in contact with Pakistani officials before and during the military operation on the Afghanistan side of the border.
Now, according to the anonymous officials the Journal has interviewed, a preliminary investigation indicates that before calling in the airstrikes to counter what they said was fire coming from the Pakistani side of the border, U.S. commandos contacted "a joint border-control center to determine whether Pakistani forces were in the area."
The Journal writes, and Tom says U.S. officials he has spoken with "confirm the basic outlines" of the report, that "Pakistani representatives at the center said there were no Pakistani military forces in the area identified by the commandos."
But, Tom says, "Pakistani troops were there. It turns out they had set up a campsite."
Pakistani officials have said there was no fire coming from their side of the border. There has been outrage in Pakistan and officials there have closed some border crossings to U.S. and NATO supply convoys.
According to Reuters, a Pakistani military official today "categorically denied the Journal's account, saying the aircraft had already engaged when Pakistan was contacted:
"Wrong information about the area of operation was provided to Pakistani officials a few minutes before the strike," said the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media. "Without getting clearance from the Pakistan side, the post had already been engaged by U.S. helicopters and fighter jets. Pakistan did not have any prior information about any operation in the area."