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U.S.-Pakistan Relationship: Is a “mistake” the cause of the temporary severance?

A much anticipated U.S. report based on an investigation into the deaths of 24 Pakistani Soldiers claim that fault is due to weakening ties between the U.S. and Pakistan. Over the past few m

onths, the U.S.-Pakistani relationship has considerably declined beginning with the death of Osama Bin Laden and concluding with the recent U.S. airstrike attacks. Pakistan’s response to the “unprovoked acts of aggression” prompted a shutdown of the two main NATO supply routes into Afghanistan.

The Foreign Prime Minister of Pakistan conveyed her thoughts to Hillary Clinton expressing deep rage and claiming that these attacks “demonstrate complete disregard for international law and human life, and are in stark violation of Pakistani sovereignty.”

Sovereignty isn’t the only issue arising out of the estranged U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Former U.S. officials and U.S. departments deem counterterrorism as the biggest issue affecting the relationship. For instance the Department of Defense and the CIA view the aid given to Pakistan as overly protecting and intruding into the U.S. counterterrorism efforts. State Department officials claim there is disconnect between the security and diplomatic goals of the U.S., with the recent attacks furthering this disconnect.

The investigation, discussed in a Pentagon news conference, found that because of mutual mistrust the U.S. failed to tell Pakistani soldiers of an attack on an Afghan border with suspicion that Pakistan would have warned insurgents. Once alarmed of this activity overnight, Pakistani soldiers fired and the U.S. launched the tragic air attack.

While the investigation alleges that the U.S. acted in self defense, the Pakistani military disagrees with the findings, suggests a lack of detailed facts and awaits the full report of the investigation. In a response to CNN, Pakistani intelligence officials claim the actual facts contradict the investigation’s findings.

There were a number of errors made regarding this NATO attack. For starters, the investigation reveals there was miscommunication surrounding whether Pakistani soldiers were in the area of attack. Through a radio transmitter, no Pakistani military were tracked which led the U.S. to believe they were not there. This was electronically documented and U.S. officials stopped inquiring about Pakistani presence in the area.

After the initial strike, the U.S. military in eastern Afghanistan gave Pakistani officials located in a border control center a general, not specific, location for the strikes. The U.S. initially reported the correct location was given, however a new account shows the U.S. attempted to make the reports more specific using a map of the border. However, this information was incorrectly portrayed, leading the Pakistani military to believe the attacks were about 9 miles from its original location.

There is, of course, much dispute over this fact, with Pakistan claiming their representatives tried to warn the U.S. that their information was incorrect. However, the report acknowledges that the location was in fact 9 miles off and U.S. officials confirm Pakistan’s assertions that a NATO officer apologized to a Pakistani representative regarding this error.

In the most dangerous of situations, shouldn’t communication be up to par? This attack shows that communication ties are in dire need of strengthening between U.S. departments and with Pakistan. With millions of dollars spent on technology efforts for the military, the U.S. should not have to attribute the death of 24 soldiers to a simple miscommunication or technological mistake.

Pakistan and the U.S.’s heightened distrust of one another prove to be detrimental for all. The national security of the U.S. is severely threatened without a stable relationship with Pakistan, which is needed to stabilize Afghanistan. Pakistan depends on U.S. aid to fund its military. With continuing threats to and violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty, there is no guarantee that this relationship will be restored.

Was this simply a mistake? Or was it a deliberate attack on the Afghan border as Pakistan seems to believe. Regardless of the true account, both parties are in for much grief, as Pakistan mourns and the U.S. struggle to ease tension between the two. Somewhat acknowledging their mistake, the U.S. is offering payments to the families of the fallen Pakistani soldiers. Meanwhile, General Ashfaq Kayani (Pakistan’s army chief) disregards this offer stating “no one can put a price tag in the blood of the martyrs of the nation.”

Once again, anticipation prevails as we await the report of Pakistan’s promised detailed response and the aftermath of these findings. Along with the U.S.’s acknowledged mistakes, offers of compensation, and condolences sent from several officials, will

Pakistan ever receive the apology it demands from the U.S.? Perhaps it is in the U.S.’s best interest to apologize, assuming the worst is yet to come.


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