Washington, Dec 22: In keeping with its practice in Afghanistan, the US is willing to offer solatia payments to the families of Pakistani soldiers killed in a cross-border NATO strike last month as it tries to resolve the crisis generated in its aftermath, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
The airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and hit the fragile US-Pakistan ties hard, following which Pakistan shut down its NATO supply routes to Afghanistan in protest.
“In keeping with our normal practices in Afghanistan, the United States is willing to offer solatia payments as a sigh of our regret for the loss of life,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told PTI.
“This is not necessarily a legal form of compensation, but it is a sign of regret for the loss of life,” Little said in response to a question, adding that an offer has to be made and accepted in accordance with the normal practice for payments be made to each of the 24 families.
He said the US had accepted responsibility for the “mistakes” and admitted “shortcomings” after a thorough investigation.
“We have expressed our deepest regret for loss of life and extended our condolences,” Little said when asked about the Pakistani demand that US should issue a formal apology.
“We have expressed our regret,” he said. Earlier at a news conference, the Pentagon Press Secretary said the findings of the report would soon be shared with the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, both of whom have already been briefed about it.
General Dempsey has been in contact with the General Kayani. They had a very professional and cordial conversation. It's my understanding that General (James) Mattis (CENTCOM commander) has also reached out to General Kayani and that the Pakistanis will be briefed on the findings of the report,” Little said.
Earlier, the head of CENTCOM investigation refuted Pakistani allegations that the investigation is not credible and transparent.
“There's nothing that is being withheld and the transparency certainly would have been facilitated greatly had Pakistan decided to participate in that,” said CENTCOM investigating officer Brigadier General Stephen Clark, who is Director of Plans, Programs, Requirements and Assessments, Air Force Special Operations Command Moderator. He said it would have been beneficial to have the other perspective but the investigation did not get the benefit of Pakistan's participation.
“I can't say why they chose not to. I just know the fact that they did not participate in—in that portion of what we would have found out is obviously going to be missing from this report,” he noted.
He said while the ISAF, NATO, CENTCOM as well as the Afghan leadership participated, it was unfortunate that Pakistan chose not to.
“I had an Afghan major general with us as part of the team. He's deputy commander of the border police with great familiarity with the area and other things going on there. “If we're trying to find out what occurred in total, that's a significant element there that is missing, ‘cause there's always two sides to a particular event, and perspectives,” he conceded.
“I very much regret that we did not have Pakistani participation,” he said.