A Pentagon spokesman insisted Wednesday that a NATO cross-border airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers was in “no way, shape or form” a deliberate attack.
“Whatever happened over the weekend on the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan was a tragedy. We’ve expressed regret for it as well as condolences for the loss of life,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters.
Obama administration officials said a military investigation would uncover exactly what took place on Saturday along the Afghan-Pakistani border and maintained that the United States had not set out to kill Pakistani troops.
The incident over the weekend infuriated Islamabad, with Pakistani officials saying the air strike was unprovoked and possibly a premeditated act of aggression. Pakistan announced it would not attend a conference on the future of Afghanistan in Germany next week in protest.
Separately, the State Department said Pakistan’s decision not to attend the Bonn conference was “regrettable”, saying “we still think Pakistan is going to play a crucial role..it’s important to build on the momentum that we have going in terms of talking about and planning for Afghanistan’s future.”
The precise sequence of events surrounding the incident remain in dispute. While Islamabad says there was no provocation to justify firing on two Pakistani outposts, Afghan and Western officials have reportedly accused Pakistani forces of firing first.