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An investigation into a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last month lays plenty of blame on both sides of the incident, in a verdict that is unlikely to end the ongoing dispute between the two countries. Pakistan has insisted that they did nothing wrong, and it won't help that report — which will soon be issued by the U.S. military — says that they fired first.

The official verdict is that the attack was the result of a colossal miscommunication that violated most of the safeguards that were put in place to avoid such an incident. Among the mistakes made:

  • NATO did not inform Pakistan that they would be conducting operations along the border.
  • Pakistan did not inform NATO that they had set up a post in that location.
  • Pakistani forces had intelligence warning them of a Taliban attack in the area.
  • When the U.S. tried to clear the airstrikes with the Pakistani army, they provide the wrong coordinates.

So when the two sides ran into each other, both assumed that the other unit was a Taliban force about to attack and had no reason to believe that it wasn't. Then when the Americans informed the Pakistan military that they were about strike, they supplied bad information, so that even if Pakistan had approved the strike on their soil (which they say they did not) they wouldn't have known that their own post was about to be hit.

That seems to put the burden for the soliders' deaths squarely on the Americans, because even if the Pakistanis had followed all the proper procedures, their post still might have been stuck by the NATO aircraft. However, the report (which is still being redacted before a public release) exonerates the Americans, ruling that the airstrike was justified because it was ultimately self-defense. There's no word on whether anyone will be disciplined, but it doesn't appear that any punishments are coming. The fact that it's an American-led investigation will only underscore Pakistani distrust of the U.S. and play into accusations that the attack was intentional.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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