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Pakistan holds border talks after deadly U.S. attack
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — The Pakistani army was meeting with NATO and Afghan forces on Wednesday in an effort to improve coordination along the Pakistan-Afghanistanborder, a sign of thawing relations after American airstrikes accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year.
Pakistan was outraged by the Nov. 26 attack on two of its Afghan border posts and claimed it was deliberate. Islamabad retaliated by closing its border to supplies meant for NATO troops in Afghanistan and by kicking the U.S. out of a base used by American drones.
But tensions seemed to have eased slightly, with Pakistani officials saying in recent days the government should reopen its border to NATO supplies as long as it can negotiate higher fees.
The United States and Pakistan long have had a troubled relationship, but both sides have an interest in preventing it from rupturing completely. The U.S. needs Pakistan‘s help to fight al Qaeda and negotiate peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan, while Islamabad is keen on keeping billions of dollars in American aid flowing.
Wednesday’s meeting took place at a border coordination center in Torkham, a city on the Pakistan-Afghanistanborder, the Pakistani army said. The operations chief for the Pakistani army, Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem, attended, it said.
The U.S. and Pakistan disagree who should be blamed for the deadly incident in November, which occurred in the middle of the night as U.S. and Afghan forces were conducting operations near the border inside Afghanistan.
The Pakistani army rejected a U.S. investigation that said mistakes were made on both sides and blamed Pakistani troops for triggering the incident by shooting at coalition forces.
Pakistan said its soldiers were shooting at Islamist militants who were nowhere near the coalition troops. It blamed U.S. forces for the incident because they failed to notify their Pakistani counterparts that they were conducting operations near the border.
The U.S. has said its commanders believe some of their military operations have been compromised when they’ve given details and locations to the Pakistanis — an example of the lack of trust between the two countries.
The U.S. has acknowledged that efforts to determine who was firing on the American troops and whether there were friendly Pakistani forces in the area failed because U.S. forces used inaccurate maps, were unaware of Pakistani border post locations and mistakenly provided the wrong location for the troops.
Pakistan has dismissed these explanations and claimed the incident was “deliberate at some level.” It refused to participate in the U.S. investigation, claiming past probes into border incidents were biased.
The latest attack occurred Wednesday when U.S. drone-fired missiles hit a house in North Waziristan’s Spalga village, killing nine people, including some domestic Taliban militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
President Obama has ramped up drone strikes in Pakistan since taking office and acknowledged the covert CIA-run program publicly for the first time in a recent interview. But he and other U.S. officials refuse to discuss details of the operations openly.
Although the Pakistani government widely is believed to have provided support for the strikes in the past, that cooperation has become strained as its relationship with Washington has deteriorated.
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