Asserting that the NATO strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers was a “military engagement”, the United States has said it is carrying out a crucial investigation to determine the circumstances that led to the tragic incident but Islamabad has refused to participate in the probe.

The U.S. has already expressed its remorse and regret for the loss of life at the highest levels of the Department of Defence, Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt John Kirby, told reporters here.

“What we aren’t going to do is get into fixing blame or fault right now. There’s an investigation going on. We need to let that investigation proceed, let the facts take us where they may and we certainly continue to invite the Pakistanis to participate in that investigation,” he said.

Responding to questions, Mr. Kirby said that it was a military engagement, but did not go into details. “It was a military engagement, in fact, that cross-border fire resulted in the deaths of some two dozen Pakistani soldiers, not innocent villagers or civilians. I’m not going to get into the details of how it occurred. That’s what we’re doing right now in the investigation.”

Pentagon Press Secretary, George Little, also said that the Pakistanis have certainly been invited to join the investigation.

“We believe their participation would be important as we look into this tragic incident. They have elected, to date, not to participate, but we would welcome their participation,” he said.

Following the last week’s incident, that has created outrage in Pakistan, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has constituted an investigation to be led by a top official and invited the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in it.

The International Assistance Security Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan would too be part of the investigation, which has to be completed by December 23.

“The relationship with Pakistan remains very important to the US. We think that cooperation with Pakistan on a variety of fronts, to include counter-terrorism, is essential. We realise the bumps in the road that we’ve experienced over the past several months, but we’re going to work very hard to work with our Pakistani counterparts to get over this latest bump in the road,” Little said in response to a question.

Mr. Kirby said the Department of Defence is working with Pakistan to reopen NATO supply routes that have been closed by Islamabad in retaliation of the killing of its 24 soldiers.

“We certainly look forward to working with Pakistan to get those gates back open, clearly. That said, logistics is about alternative, it’s about options, and we’re certainly working through what sort of options we may need to pursue,” he said.

“We have a very important mission in Afghanistan, and we’re going to make sure that our troops have what they need, when they need it, to accomplish that mission,” he said.

Insisting that U.S.-Pak relationship is very important, Mr. Little said the Pentagon is working hard to improve on it in the aftermath of the incident. “Let me say in the strongest possible terms, that this was not in any way, shape or form an intentional attack by the United States military on Pakistan.”

“The relationship with Pakistan, as I said before, is absolutely critical and essential. We are partners with the government of Pakistan. The sign of strength in any relationship is how we work through very serious disagreements and incidents such as this. This was, in fact, a tragedy.

“So we are going to be working overtime to try to resolve our differences on this and other matters so that we can take the long view on the Pakistani relationship. It is an essential one, and that is our goal,” he said.

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