NATO troops ordered not to approach Af-Pak buffer zone

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Washington, Dec 3: US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan have been ordered not to approach the buffer zone on the Af-Pak border in order to avoid recurrence of last week's air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

An order in this regard has been issued by Gen John Allen, the Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the November 26 air strike, pending the detailed investigation into the incident announced by US Central Command (CENTCOM), Ivo Daalder, US Permanent Representative to NATO, said here yesterday.

The real facts of the incident, he said, would be known only after the investigation is over.

"The most important thing we have already learnt is that Gen Allen has ordered the troops not to approach the created buffer zone at the border in order to reduce the chances that something like this would happen in the future," Daalder said in a breakfast meeting with the Defence Writers Group here.

Giving his brief of the incident that has plunged the US-Pak relationship to an all-time low, the US Ambassador said the most basic fact is that there was a strike that killed 24 Pakistani border guards.

"What we don't know the sequence of events that led to that and we have conflicting stories. Our side of the story is still being investigated in great detail. General Allen took the responsibility immediately not only to investigate the incident but also to bring in US, Afghan, NATO and asked Pakistan to participate in the investigation," he said.

The Pentagon yesterday said that Pakistan has declined to participate in the investigation.

"I don't know the sequence of events. There may be people who know, but so far they haven't come to any conclusions and I think the best thing to do is to let the fact speaks for itself.

"However these facts would come out, we would learn about the incident," Daalder said, adding that one of the lessons learnt has already been implemented by NATO in the order that has been issued by Gen Allen with regard to not to approach the created buffer zone on the border.

"But we would have to look at exactly what happened, and what lessons we learn from it about communications need... and that would take some time," the American diplomat said conceding that the relationship between the two nations have reached an all-time low.

"It is clear that relationship with Pakistan has not improved. The relationship has been on the US level difficult for some time, we had the arrest of (CIA contractor) Raymond Davis (in Lahore), we had the Osama bin Laden raid (in Abbottabad) and others and finally this incident just escalates a set of differences that are real," he said.

The US is trying to work together with NATO as well as other countries, understanding that this is a major problem for it, Daalder said.

"We need to find ways to continue cooperative effort with Pakistan. We have no choice but to cooperate with Pakistan given that the terrorists are a threat to all three of our countries (US, Pakistan and Afghanistan).

"As such an effective cooperation would remain essential which is why, we talked at the highest level ... to try to find ways to get cooperation," he said.

PTI

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