The precise location of a Pakistani border post that was destroyed by American airstrikes last month, killing 11 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers, was not in an American database used to prevent accidental attacks on friendly forces, an investigation into the episode has concluded.
Had the coordinates of the remote outpost been logged into the database, it would have immediately raised a red flag when allied troops called in airstrikes after being fired on during a clash with insurgents on the Afghan border, said American officials who were briefed on the inquiry.
The Pakistani forces killed in the strikes were apparently inside the building or possibly in bunkers near it, perhaps intermingled with the insurgents who retreated back across the border into Pakistan in the chaotic fighting, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.
But no blame was assigned in the monthlong investigation by American, Afghan and Pakistani officials into the June 10 episode, which drew an angry protest from Pakistan's government and underscored the faulty communication and coordination between allied forces fighting increasing cross-border attacks by Taliban and other militants.
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Taliban fighters and other militants have used havens in Pakistan to carry out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan with increasing frequency, prompting senior NATO and American military officials to press the new Pakistan government to take more aggressive action against the insurgents.
After the June 10 airstrike, each of the three countries involved conducted its own inquiry into what happened and then tried, largely unsuccessfully, to reconcile their results. The U.S., for instance, concluded the airstrikes were justified to defend a small team of American-led soldiers who were ambushed. American officials said a Pakistani liaison officer approved the airstrikes, apparently thinking there were no Pakistani forces in the area.
But Pakistan has disputed this version of events, telling American officials that none of its officers ever cleared the airstrikes and artillery fire.
To spare further rupture of relations, the U.S. and Pakistan have essentially agreed to disagree over important points of the investigation, including whether the Pakistani forces killed were aiding the insurgents or innocent victims caught in the crossfire.