x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pakistan rejects US self-defence claim on drone strikes

Army formal stance over strikes which killed 24 soldiers last year could complicate efforts to repair the troubled but vital relationship between the two countries.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan's army has formally rejected a US claim that the American air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops last year were justified as self-defence, a stance that could complicate efforts to repair the troubled but vital relationship between the two countries.

The army said that Pakistani troops did not trigger the November 26 incident at two posts along the Afghan border by firing at American and Afghan forces, as the US has alleged. Pakistan's army said its troops shot at suspected militants who were nowhere near coalition troops.

"Trying to affix partial responsibility of the incident on Pakistan is, therefore, unjustified and unacceptable," said the army said in a report released on Monday, which was issued in response to the US investigation that concluded last month.

The US expressed condolences for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers but said American troops acted "with appropriate force" in self-defence because they thought they were being attacked by Taliban insurgents.

In Washington, the State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said the US stood by the "thorough" investigation into the November 26 incident conducted by the military's US Central Command.

"We did offer to the Pakistani government, to the Pakistani military, that they could participate fully in our investigation and have their own people on our team. They declined to participate. That could have led to more convergence of view, perhaps," she said.

Pakistan responded quickly to the deadly attack by closing its border crossings to supplies for Nato troops in Afghanistan. The borders have remained closed, and Pakistan also kicked the US out of a base that was used to service American drones.