Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says a joint U.S.-Pakistan team will issue its report on Wednesday on the incident last week in which rockets fired from an American helicopter killed three Pakistani border troops and wounded three more. The incident resulted in a ban on NATO supply trucks at one of the two border crossings that are a key part of the difficult and complex operation to provide fuel and other crucial supplies to U.S. and other international forces in Afghanistan.
The spokesman would not discuss the contents of the report, but he said Pakistani investigators were provided with photos and video from the helicopter's cameras to help in their work. He said U.S. forces are always authorized to defend themselves and that he has not heard of any plan to change the rules under which U.S. aircraft in Afghanistan operate.
The NATO command in Kabul acknowledges the helicopter crossed the border to reach insurgents on the Afghan side. But U.S. officials say the helicopter crew members fired at the Pakistani border post nearby in self-defense after they believed the Pakistani troops were firing at them. Pakistan says the troops fired warning shots when the helicopter crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistani airspace.
The Pentagon's Geoff Morrell called the incident "unfortunate," but said it will not affect the long-term U.S.-Pakistan relationship. "There are setbacks. But that does not mean the relationship, this crucial relationship to us, is in any way derailed. In fact, throughout this period of tension, if you will, mil-to-mil [military-to-military] relations have proceeded. There was no suspension. There was disengagement. There were no reprisals, in that sense," he said.
Morrell noted that U.S.-Pakistan defense cooperation has continued during the past week, including information exchanges and U.S. military support for flood relief operations.
Pakistan's ban on NATO supplies transiting the Khyber Pass was widely seen as retaliation for the helicopter attack. But Pakistani officials say it was done for the safety of the convoys, which are Pakistani trucks under contract to the alliance. However, some trucks waiting to cross have been attacked and burned by Pakistani insurgents in recent days.
U.S. officials say the ban has not had affected operations in Afghanistan, and they expect it to be lifted soon.