Report came after the probe into November 25 U.S. Air Force strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers
Taliban insurgents may be receiving weapons, ammunition and combat equipment from elements in the Pakistan army, a report by the United States military has suggested.
Early-morning patrols on November 26, 2011 by Afghan and U.S. troops at Maya village in KhasKonar district, east of Kabul, led to the recovery of an estimated 3,000 rounds of Pakistan military-issue rifle rounds packed into bandoleers, two Pakistan military-issue binoculars, and multiple sets of salwar-kameez clothing made from Pakistan military uniforms, the report states.
The report, authored by Brigadier-General Stephen Clark, was produced after an investigation into the November 25 U.S. Air Force (USAF) strike, which led to the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged the troubled relationship between the two countries to an all-time low.
The report, the full text of which was released by December-end, focuses mainly on the circumstances that led to the air strike.
It also casts light, though, on the deep suspicions the Afghan and U.S. troops harbour on the intentions and affiliations of their ostensible allies across the border in Pakistan.
The KhasKonar clash
Late on the night of November 25, the report says, ground forces sent to comb the area around Maya came under intense fire from a position on the ridgeline running along the border.
The USAF flew an F-15E at low altitude, dispensing flares — a move intended, among other things, to signal to the attackers, if they were Pakistani troops, that their target were western forces.
Fire continued, though, to rain down on the patrols, and air-strikes were called in a little after midnight.
Before the bombs hit, the report states, the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) eastern regional command informed a Pakistani liaison officer of their plans to carry out the attack. The liaison officer was, however, given the wrong coordinates, and he informed the ISAF that there were no Pakistani troops in the area.
The ISAF called off planned airstrikes after the Pakistani army reported its troops were being hit, but by then, the soldiers were dead.
The Pakistan post, the report says, overlooked an “insurgent training facility, C2 [command and control] node and logistic hub.” In addition to the Pakistani military equipment recovered from an objective, the report describes using the code-name OCTAGON. It says rifles, improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades were also found.
Though the report does not address the inevitable suspicion—that Pakistani personnel at the post might have assisted or overlooked the operations at the insurgent base — it records a climate of suspicion that clouded cooperation between the Pakistani forces and ISAF troops.
The captain in-charge of the operation at Maya, it says, provided specific grid-references of his targets to his superiors at the ISAF, but insisted that only their general area be communicated to the Pakistan army, presumably to avoid the prospect of their being leaked to insurgents.
The report admits that the multiple errors in communication and planning “set the conditions for the death and injury of large numbers of PAKMIL personnel and the destruction of [the] PAKMIL border post,” but adds that “the catalyst for this tragedy was ultimately the initial and continuing engagement by PAKMIL forces on coalition forces who, in turn, responded accordingly and appropriately”.
Ever since 2008, when escalating terror strikes by a resurgent Taliban led to a sharp deterioration in the situation in Afghanistan, the ISAF has had an increasingly fraught relationship with the Pakistan army. That June, an air strike claimed the lives of 11 Pakistani troops.
In September 2010, three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a helicopter attack on a post in Kurram.
Last year, at least four Pakistani soldiers were killed in artillery exchanges.
Pakistan has rejected Brigadier-General Clark's report, and responded by blockading the ISAF supplies carried from the Karachi port to its troops in Afghanistan.
Its demand for a formal apology has been rejected by U.S. President Barack Obama.