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U.S. military calls for more trust with Pakistan following tragedy

(Xinhua)

08:28, December 27, 2011

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Central Command on Monday called for enhanced trust-building measures, including full disclosure of all facilities and installations near the Afghan border, to avoid a repetition of the "friendly fire incidents" that killed 24 Pakistani troops last month.

"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," U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis, commander of the Central Command, said in a statement posted on its website.

He directed John Allen, commander of the allied forces in Afghanistan, to implement a number of "corrective actions as soon as operationally possible," such as establishing an environment of "improved, mutual trust" among stakeholders working in the border areas expanding upon existing confidence-building measures.

He called for a program 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."

"Develop and share with Pakistan military if possible the common use of force escalation measures such as show of force and such other standard procedures as needed to prevent friendly fire incidents," the general said in his directive.

In its own report into the incident on Nov. 25-26, in which NATO fighter jets and helicopters killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and injured 13 others in Pakistan's tribal region of Mohmand Agency which borders Afghanistan, the Central Command said that border area cooperation and coordination was hampered by "a climate of mutual distrust."

The 30-page report also shed light on competing NATO and U.S. rules of engagement related to border-area and cross-border operations, saying they lacked "clarity and precision" and were not followed.

The tragedy had prompted Pakistan to shut down NATO's vital supply line into Afghanistan and ask the United States to vacate a key air base in the country's southwest Balochistan province.

After a nearly month-long investigation, the Pentagon concluded last week that NATO forces "acted in self defense" with no intention to target the Pakistani military. It faulted "inadequate coordination" by U.S. and Pakistani military officers for the attack.

U.S.-Pakistan relations have been strained since May this year when U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden, leader of al- Qaida, within Pakistan without first notifying the country of the action.

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