Madison Ruppert, Contributor
The United States military has now decided that they will not charge a single soldier with any crime for their role in the airstrike carried out by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces last year which resulted in the murder of 24 Pakistani soldiers.
This incident significantly hurt U.S.-Pakistani relations and has had a major impact on operations in Afghanistan, not the least of which is the increase of effective gasoline costs up to around $400 per gallon for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
The American investigation – the objectivity of which is highly questionable – determined that both American and Pakistani troops were at fault.
However, said investigation in December of last year claimed that the Pakistani soldiers fired first. They further claimed that the soldiers fired from two border posts which were not on the coalition maps.
Furthermore, they allege that the Pakistani soldiers did not stop firing when the Americans attempted to tell them that they were attacking allied troops.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Pakistan rejected all of these conclusions and put the blame squarely on American forces.
The investigation carried out by the United States set up a second inquiry which looked into whether American military personnel should be held responsible for the killings.
This review, which was just recently completed, came to the conclusion that not a single soldier should be punished for any crime whatsoever.
According to three senior military officials cited by The New York Times, the Americans fired in self-defense, thus clearing them of any and all wrongdoing.
They are now claiming that the mistakes which contributed to the tragic and deadly attack were nothing more than the result of battlefield confusion.
“We found nothing criminally negligent on the part of any individual in our investigations of the incident,” one anonymous senior U.S. military official, who has been involved with the inquiry, said.
The American officials spoke only on condition of anonymity due to the fact that the results of the review have yet to be made publicly available.
This decision is very likely to help the strained ties between Pakistan and the United States, which have been marred by many an incident in the past year or so.
These include the murder of two Pakistanis in Lahore carried out by CIA contractor Raymond Davis (who was released after $2.4 million was paid to families of the victims in what appeared to be a “blood money” payoff), the fake vaccination scam that was allegedly used to get DNA from the bin Laden family, the farcical raid of the Abbottabad compound which allegedly housed Osama bin Laden and to top it all off, the deadly airstrike in November of last year.
All of these incidents have just helped push Pakistan closer to China and has partially contributed to China saying that the United States needs to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and cease the cross-border incursions. One must also assume that it is also somewhat related to China giving Pakistan 50 fighter jets last year.
The Pakistani parliament is expected to restart their debate over relations with the United States as soon as Monday. This will include a major review of all U.S.-Pakistani relations, which has the potential of opening up the NATO supply lines that run into Afghanistan through Pakistan once again.
Obviously the stakes are high for the United States, but they are not helping at all by declaring all of those soldiers who were involved to be absolutely and totally innocent of any wrongdoing.
This debate amongst Pakistan’s parliament has already resulted in some Pakistani legislators demanding a formal, unconditional apology from the U.S. for the airstrike which slaughtered some 24 of their troops.
Honestly, I would be quite surprised if the United States honors this request, as they usually simply express “regret” or some other hollow statement which avoids actually taking any responsibility or apologizing in any true sense.
United States President Barack Obama is slated to meet with Yousaf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, this coming week in South Korea after a nuclear conference. They are expected to discuss issues surrounding Afghanistan and security.
Obama, however, is not expected to actually apologize to Gilani or go beyond the expression of regret he gave back in November of last year. In my opinion, this is hardly sufficient when the United States murdered two dozen of their people.
Also coming up this week is an expected meeting between the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, General James N. Mattis, and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army’s chief of staff, in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
This meeting will likely focus on the investigation into the airstrike, new procedures to coordinate border activities in an attempt to prevent similar incidents in the future, opportunities surrounding training, arms sales, and improving border coordination centers, according to unnamed military officials.
Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides and the State Department special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan are also likely to meet with senior officials from Pakistan in the near future in an attempt to repair U.S.-Pakistani relations.
Interestingly, the report seems to indicate that some of the tragic attack was due to American military officials lacking trust in their Pakistani allies.
Indeed, the first investigation which was carried out by U.S. Central Command in December, determined that some of the checks and balances in place, which are intended to prevent cross-border attacks like this one, failed because Americans did not trust the Pakistanis enough to give them detailed information concerning the whereabouts of American forces in Afghanistan.
The investigation also reportedly found that a NATO operations officer in Afghanistan took a whopping 45 minutes to notify a senior allied commander about the fact that Pakistan was saying that their outposts were under attack.
There appears to be at least one, possibly two, officers involved in delaying the notification. There is currently speculation surrounding whether a faster response might have saved lives, which I think is a quite obvious conclusion.
Officials “did not respond correctly, quickly enough or with the sense of urgency or initiative required given the gravity of the situation and the well-known sensitivity surrounding the Afghan-Pakistan border region,” according to the December inquiry.
The Pakistani military, on the other hand, has called the report “factually not correct,” saying that Americans attacked first, adding that the United States failed to share information “at any level” while denying any and all responsibility for the deaths.
“A full investigation was done by our military, and the conclusions were sent to the parliamentary committee,” said Major General Athar Abbas, the Pakistani military’s spokesman. “Now the government should communicate to the U.S. whatever they want.”
Based on the information acquired by the first U.S. inquiry, American officials claimed that no criminal charges or even disciplinary measures like fines or demotions were warranted.
At most, it seems that at some level there might be an administrative reprimand, although that will remain a private manner within the unit or command in question.
Interestingly, The New York Times attempts to convince the reader that there was no cover-up or wrongdoing here. The fact that they even bring up the possibility of a cover-up seems highly suspicious to me.
“The absence of disciplinary action in a specific case doesn’t mean that there was a cover-up or anything like that,” said Charles J. Dunlap Jr., a retired Air Force major general who served as deputy judge advocate general and is now executive director of the Duke University Law School’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, according to The New York Times.
“Rather, it may well simply indicate that a tragic accident occurred, and the fog and friction of war make the facts such that assigning criminal responsibility is just not the right thing to do,” Dunlap added.
However, quoting someone with Dunlap’s history on matters of holding U.S. soldiers accountable for their wartime activities is laughable at best. Obviously Dunlap’s opinion should be questioned as he is far from an impartial, objective source.
The American military claims that they are taking major steps to help prevent such tragedies in the future, but I seriously doubt that this will do anything to make the people of Pakistan feel better about the 24 soldiers who were slaughtered for no reason.
The degradation of U.S.-Pakistani relations could be a major boon to China, and it appears that they are capitalizing on it as much as possible.
It will be interesting to see if the meetings slated for this coming week have any impact on the highly strained relations or if this butting of heads continues indefinitely.
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.