Pakistan urged to share border-post map

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 26, 2011 6:54 PM
Pakistan urged to share border-post map

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Central Command is urging Pakistan to share a map of its facilities and installations near the Afghan border to help avert episodes like the one that killed 24 Pakistani forces last month.

U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis, the commander, said in a statement on Monday that the strike's chief lesson was that "we must improve border coordination and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border."

Separately, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has held off for about six weeks on drone missile strikes in Pakistan against low-ranking militants suspected of mounting cross-border raids.

The undeclared suspension, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, reflects a mix of factors, apparently including a lack of immediate high-value targets.

The strikes themselves are covert actions that the CIA does not acknowledge publicly. The New York Times said they had been on hold since November 16, calling this the longest pause since 2008.

Mattis told the allied commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, to take steps to prevent "friendly fire" incidents and share them with Pakistan's military "if possible," an apparent reference to continuing strains.

The latest U.S. military thinking on repairing the damage was disclosed on the Central Command's website along with a 30-page report of the U.S. military's findings on the November 25-26 nighttime airstrike that deeply angered Pakistan.

The incident has derailed already uneasy Pakistan-U.S. cooperation in the American-led fight against Islamic militants who zig-zag the border, known as the Durand line, to destabilize the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai.

Pakistan closed routes used to supply U.S. forces in Afghanistan in response to the air strike and booted the United States from an air base used to launch drones.

U.S. military investigators said American forces had failed to verify the location of Pakistani units before ordering the attack but blamed Pakistani forces for firing first. The findings were outlined by the Pentagon on Thursday.

An allied operation had been getting under way against militants when, according to Brigadier General Stephen Clark, who headed the probe, the NATO forces came under mortar and machinegun fire from a ridge on the Pakistan side of border.

Mattis directed Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, to seek full disclosure of all facilities and installations on both sides of the frontier as soon as possible.

This should include "systematic updates based on a common data base and map, and incorporating periodic reciprocal coordination visits," he said.

The U.S. investigators said a climate of deep mutual distrust was partly to blame for the incident.

Pakistan did not participate in the U.S. investigation and rejected its findings as "short on facts," as Major General Athar Abbas, an Army spokesman, put it on Thursday.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

(Reporting By Jim Wolf)