Washington, Dec 27: The US forces in Afghanistan must build greater trust and communications with the Pakistan Army to prevent “friendly-fire” incidents, a top US commander has said, amid a diplomatic row following a cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
General James Mattis, Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), directed General John Allen, who heads the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to improve their coordination with Pakistan and take steps to enhance the level of trust between the forces on both sides of the porous border.
“Implement a programme of full disclosure of all border area facilities and installations - including installations on both sides of the border with systematic updates based on a common data base and map, and incorporating periodic reciprocal coordination visits,” Mattis asked Allen.
“The strongest take-away from this incident is the fundamental fact that we must improve border coordination and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border,” Mattis was quoted as saying in a statement.
Simultaneously, the CENTCOM also released the report of its investigation into the November 25 incident on the Af-Pak border in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by NATO forces in a cross-border fire.
The incident resulted in furious reaction from Pakistan, which retaliated by closing down the Shamsi air base and the NATO supply route.
CENTCOM, which oversees US military operations across a wide swath of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, said Mattis asked Allen to implement a series of correctives measures with immediate effect, including establishing an environment of improved, mutual trust among stakeholders working in the border areas expanding upon existing confidence-building measures.