Mistakes by both American and Pakistani troops led to airstrikes against Pakistani posts on the Afghanistan border that killed 26 Pakistani Army soldiers last month, according to a Pentagon investigation that for the first time acknowledged some American responsibility for the clash, which plunged the already frayed relationship between the United States and Pakistan to a new low.
But two crucial findings — that the Pakistanis fired first and that the Americans fired back in self-defense after repeatedly warning that Pakistanis they were shooting at allied troops — were likely to further anger Pakistan.
In an early-morning statement on Thursday and later at a Pentagon briefing, the Defense Department said three separate American airstrikes over more than an hour around midnight on Nov. 26 were justified because Pakistani soldiers opened fire on a joint team of Afghan and American Special Operations forces operating along the often poorly demarcated frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self-defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon,” George Little, a Department of Defense spokesman, told reporters in Washington. The American inquiry “also found that there was no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military.”