ISLAMABAD – Rejecting the detailed NATO probe on last month’s border attack, Pakistan Army has questioned the validity of the findings supervised by a military man who held command of allied forces in Afghanistan.
The military has expressed serious reservations over the US Air Force Brigadier General Stephen Clark’s leading the Mohmand attack probe while refusing to show any compliance for the launch of a fresh investigation.
The development reportedly followed an exchange of written communication between the Pentagon and Pakistan’s military headquarters (GHQ) amid the reports that the latter has raised serious questions over the authenticity of the NATO report under the supervision of Brigadier General Clark.
According to informed officials, the Pakistan military holds Clark as one of the commanders responsible for the November 26 deadly attack on two Pakistani military pickets – Volcano and Boulder – that killed 24 soldiers. As head of Air Force Special Operations Forces (AFSOF), Clark remained Colonel Commandant of the 27 Special Operations Forces (SOF) Wing that carries out ground and aerial operations in Afghanistan. The 16 Squadron Wing of the United States Air Force (USAF), that saw its gunship choppers bombarding the Pakistani pickets, was also headed by Brigadier General Clark in his official capacity as the chief pilot.
The Squadron 16, it is learnt, directly oversees the operational command of the sophisticated gunship choppers AC-130 H Spectre that were used in the Mohmand Agency attack. Apart from heading the combat mission in Afghanistan, Brigadier General Clark also remained the Commander of 4th SOF at the USAF.
Citing the afore-stated factors, Pakistan’s military, in the Wednesday’s correspondence with the Pentagon, is reported to have pointed out Stephen Clark’s unsuitability for leading a sensitive probe that, according to military circles, compromised his objective position owing to his direct professional linkages with allied combat forces in Afghanistan. “He is not neutral. Given that he himself commands the Special Operations Forces, we have grounds to believe that the November 26 episode did not happen without Clark’s consent. He is as much to be held responsible as General Allen is,” military officials said.
When contacted on Wednesday, the NATO Air Operations spokesperson in Afghanistan Christopher DeWitt told this scribe that Pentagon was in better position to address any queries on Brigadier General Stephen Clark. Pentagon’s spokesperson George Little was not accessible at his official cell phone nor did he return the emails.
The NATO, it is further learnt, has offered Pakistan to launch a fresh probe into Mohmand Agency with Pakistan military being part of the investigation but this suggestion has also been turned down. “They’re not ready to accept anything but wanting the NATO to claim full responsibility of the border bombing incident and apologise unconditionally,” Nato-based sources said about Pakistan’s disinterest shown regarding the probe.
Earlier last Friday, Pakistan Army had rejected the initial findings of the investigation on Mohmand Agency attack released by the Pentagon. A military statement had said, detailed response (to the report) would be given as and when the formal report was received. This newspaper had reported Sunday that NATO was unlikely to share the detailed report with Pakistani military sensing adverse reaction from the latter. This development followed the requests by the US Central Command (CENTCOM) Chief General David Mattis which had been turned down for a meeting with Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Reportedly, General Mattis wanted to visit Pakistan to brief the country’s military top brass on November 26 attack.
Pakistani officials say that the military refused to cooperate on last month’s probe because the probe’s findings in the presence of General John Allen, the NATO Commander in Afghanistan, and Brigadier General Clark were “pretty obvious”. Military circles believe that an impartial inquiry was not possible without putting into probe General Allen, Clark and Afghan National Army’s Head General Sher Muhammad Karimi.
Special Correspondent from Washington adds: While dropping hints of disciplinary action against those responsible for last month’s NATO attack that killed 26 Pakistani soldiers, the US military said Tuesday that Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has been briefed on its investigation into the deadly incident.
The full report was presented to Gen Kayani by a US military officer stationed at the US Embassy in Islamabad, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby told reporters.
He said the report from the joint US-Nato investigative team was not released publicly until Monday to allow time for the Pakistani leadership to read the findings first. “We wanted General Kayani to be able to see the entire thing,” he said. The approach represented ‘an appropriate professional courtesy’ to Kayani, he added.
A summary of the report was released Thursday by the officer who led the investigation, Brigadier General Stephen Clark.
The US report provides more details on the November 25-26 air strikes that Clark says were the result of a series of mistakes and botched communications on both sides — reflecting an underlying mistrust between the two countries.
It took the NATO-led force 90 minutes to halt air strikes after a Pakistani liaison officer first alerted US and coalition counterparts that Pakistani troops were coming under fire from American aircraft, the report said.
The probe also said the US military had failed to notify the Pakistanis in advance of the night raid near the border and that a coalition officer mistakenly gave the wrong location of the US troops to his Pakistani counterpart.
Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said military leaders will use the final report on the investigation to determine if anyone should be punished. Those decisions, he said, would be made by officers in the chain of command, depending on whether they found that mistakes were made by US or NATO personnel.