After 10 years of war in Afghanistan, a persistent lack of trust between the United States and Pakistan still complicates operations along the critical Afghanistan border and was a key factor in the errant American airstrikes late last month that killed 24 Pakistani troops.
U.S. officials on Thursday accepted some blame for the deadly incident that infuriated Pakistani leaders, prompting Pakistan to shut down key supply routes for the war and further eroding America's already rocky relations with Islamabad. The Defense Department briefed reporters Thursday on the conclusions reached in its investigation of the incident.
But the United States did not apologize, despite the embarrassing series of errors. Pentagon officials said Thursday that military leaders had spoken by phone to Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani about the conclusions.
Pakistan refused to cooperate in the investigation. And the U.S. report -- placing some of the blame on Islamabad -- is likely to only increase their fury and delay the reopening of the supply routes.
In a Pentagon briefing, Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, an Air Force special operations officer who led the investigation, made it clear that U.S. forces were fired on first and acted in self-defense.
But he acknowledged that efforts to determine who was firing on the U.S troops and whether there were friendly Pakistani forces in the area -- the primary questions in any cross-border incident -- failed because U.S. forces used inaccurate maps, were unaware of Pakistani border post locations and mistakenly provided the wrong location for the troops.
There is "an overarching lack of trust between the two sides" that keeps them from giving each other specific details on troops or combat outpost locations, Clark said as he went through an account of the events that began on Nov. 25.
U.S. and NATO commanders, Clark said, believe that some of their military operations have been compromised when they've given details and locations to the Pakistanis.
In a confusing series of communications, U.S. officials gave Pakistan liaison officers the wrong location of the firefight and were told that no Pakistani troops were in that region. The U.S. launched a round of airstrikes.