26 dec 2011
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Central Command is urging Pakistan to share a map of its facilities and installations near the Afghan border to help avert episodes like the one that killed 24 Pakistani forces last month.
U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis, the commander, said in a statement on Monday the chief lesson from the strike was “that we must improve border coordination and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border.”
He told the allied commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, to develop steps to prevent “friendly fire” incidents and share them with Pakistan’s military when possible.
The orders were disclosed on the Central Command’s web site along with a 30-page report of the U.S. military’s findings on the November 25-26 nighttime airstrike that deeply angered Pakistan.
The incident has derailed already uneasy Pakistan-U.S. cooperation in the American-led fight against Islamic militants who zig-zag the border, known as the Durand line, to destabilize the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai.
After the airstrike, Pakistan closed routes used to supply U.S. forces in Afghanistan and booted the United States from an air base used to launch remotely piloted drone aircraft.
The Pentagon report outlined last week said investigators found that U.S. forces had failed to verify the location of Pakistani units before ordering the attack but blamed Pakistani forces for firing first.
An allied operation had been getting under way against militants in a remote area near Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan.
Mattis directed Allen, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, to seek full disclosure of all facilities and installations on both sides of the border as soon as possible.
This should include “systematic updates based on a common data base and map, and incorporating periodic reciprocal coordination visits,” he said.
The U.S. investigators said a climate of deep mutual distrust was partly to blame for the airstrikes against two Pakistani posts.
Pakistan did not participate in the U.S. investigation and rejected its findings as “short on facts,” as Major General Athar Abbas, an Army spokesman, put it on Thursday.