WASHINGTON — Pakistani officials in Washington vehemently asserted Thursday that a deadly NATO airstrike on two Pakistani border posts near Afghanistan in November was unprovoked and inexplicable. They also said U.S. military officials in the region had given “inaccurate and incomplete” information to their Pakistani counterparts as the air attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops got under way.
Their comments, at a Pakistan embassy news conference, came one week before U.S. military officials are expected to release the results of their investigation into the incident. NATO and Afghan officials have described the late-night air assault as a response to gunfire that came from the vicinity of the Pakistan border posts, where they believed militants had taken cover.
The incident, which caused a public uproar across Pakistan, deepened the rift between the American and Pakistani governments. As a result of the November airstrike, Pakistan cut off NATO supply routes and boycotted a recent conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany. It also declined to cooperate in the U.S. probe of the incident.
Afghan military officials have said coalition forces in Afghanistan came under fire from militants who retreated to an area near the Pakistan military posts. American military officials have declined to release a detailed account of the incident pending their investigation, but they have expressed regret for the loss of life.
Pakistani officials Thursday referred to U.S. and NATO forces as “our friends,” and stopped short of saying that the air attack had been deliberately aimed at Pakistani forces. But they repeatedly asserted that it could not have been a case of mistaken identity, and they said NATO forces in the area had multiple channels to communicate and coordinate with their Pakistani counterparts. The officials declined to be named for the record.