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Pakistan makes its case in Washington: deadly NATO attack was no mistake

Amid an accelerating downward spiral in US-Pakistan relations, a presentation at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington on the deadly NATO attack served as a portrait of mistrust.  

By Staff writer / December 15, 2011

Pakistani university students march towards the U. S. consulate to protest the NATO airstrikes on Pakistani troops, in Karachi, Pakistan on Dec 2. Amid a downward spiral in US-Pakistan relations, senior Pakistani officials made their presentation in Washington Thursday in the aftermath of the deadly NATO attack.

Shakil Adil/AP

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Washington

Pakistan is offering a view of what happened in NATO’s deadly attack on a pair of Pakistani army border outposts last month that concludes that the operation could not have been a mistake – and that the shooting by helicopter gunships that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead continued for an hour after NATO forces said it would stop.

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Senior Pakistani officials made their presentation in Washington Thursday amid a downward spiral in US-Pakistan relations that began early in the year but has accelerated while the two uneasy partners trade allegations in the aftermath of the Nov. 26 attack.

On Wednesday the House of Representatives approved a freeze on $700 million in military aid to Pakistan. For its part, Pakistan has evicted the US from an airbase where drones were stationed, has closed its borders to the transfer of NATO supplies into Afghanistan – and is now proposing to charge NATO transit fees for using Pakistani supply routes if and when the borders reopen to NATO.

It was amid that heightened tension that the Pakistani Embassy in Washington summoned reporters Thursday to hear the Pakistani view of the attack on the outposts. “We want to offer our view of the incident as we see it,” said acting Ambassador Iffat Gardezi.

NATO is proceeding with its own inquiry into the incident, but Pakistan has refused to cooperate with that investigation. Ambassador Gardezi suggested that the Pakistani public would not tolerate any sign of their officials’ cooperation with NATO so soon after the deadly attack.

“This is the fourth incident [of NATO attacking Pakistani forces] in the recent past, there were joint inquiries before and nothing happened after that,” she said. “The entire population is against any cooperation at this time – they want an apology.”

President Obama has offered condolences for those killed in the attack but not an official apology.

The senior Pakistani officials who offered the presentation said the explanation of mistaken identity (NATO has said its forces thought they were firing on militants) could not be accepted for a list of reasons, ranging from the years of cooperation and the procedures put in place to prevent this kind of mistake, to the barrenness of the terrain where the simple stone outposts sat. The stark, treeless landscape meant the two outposts that were attacked stuck out and could not be mistaken for something else, the officials said.

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