Wednesday, July 4, 2012

DTN News - AFGHAN WAR NEWS: Pakistan Opens NATO Supply Line As Clinton Says 'Sorry'

Defense News: DTN News - AFGHAN WAR NEWS: Pakistan Opens NATO Supply Line As Clinton Says 'Sorry'
Source: DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources By Eric Schmitt - NY Times
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - July 3, 2012:  Pakistan told the United States it was reopening NATO’s supply routes into neighboring Afghanistan after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she was sorry for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers in American airstrikes in November, the State Department said Tuesday.

The agreement ends a bitter seven-month stalemate between the two countries that has threatened to jeopardize counterterrorism cooperation and complicated the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a telephone call to Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, Mrs. Clinton said the two officials agreed that mistakes were made on both sides that led to the fatal airstrike.

“We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement issued by the State Department. “We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”

The November airstrikes, which killed 24 soldiers in Pakistani territory after reports of militant activity in the area, led Pakistan to immediately close the supply lines and plunged relations between the countries to a low point.

The agreement on Tuesday followed a flurry of recent contacts between top American and Pakistani officials. Gen. John R. Allen, the American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, met last week in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army chief of staff, to discuss counterterrorism strategy and the supply routes.

Over the weekend, Mrs. Clinton telephoned her congratulations to Pakistan’s new prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, and brought up the issue. And on Monday, Thomas R. Nides, a deputy secretary of state, visited Islamabad to discuss the routes.

But the major stumbling block has been Pakistan’s demand for a formal American apology for the fatal airstrike in November. The Pentagon and the White House have adamantly opposed any additional apology beyond the several expressions of regret and condolences offered by many American officials — a carefully calibrated response during a hard-fought presidential campaign in the United States.

In her statement on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton again expressed “deepest regrets for the tragic incident” last November and offered the administration’s “sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers.”  But the clincher for Pakistan seemed to be Mrs. Clinton’s using the word “sorry.”

In exchange, Pakistan dropped its insistence on a higher transit fee for each truck carrying NATO nonlethal supplies from Pakistan into Afghanistan, Mrs. Clinton said.

It was not immediately clear why Pakistan dropped the demand, which had been a hotly contested issue for months.

Pakistan, stung by the suspension of American military assistance last year, at first demanded a fee of $5,000 for each truck that crossed its territory from the port in Karachi to Afghanistan. Before the November attack, NATO had paid $250. Pakistan later reduced that demand to about $3,000 a truck; the United States had offered $1,000 per vehicle.

In the end, however, American officials said Pakistan agreed to keep the fee at $250 a truck. In return, the United States is expected to reimburse Pakistani up to $1 billion for costs incurred by some 150,000 Pakistani troops carrying out counterinsurgency operations along the border with Afghanistan, the officials said.  

“This is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region,” Mrs. Clinton said in her statement, noting that waiving any transit fees will allow the United States and NATO to conduct “the planned drawdown at a much lower cost.”

The Pentagon has offset the closed route by using a much longer, more expensive northern supply line that runs into Afghanistan through Central Asia. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has said the route was costing an extra $100 million a month.

Mr. Panetta on Tuesday applauded Pakistan’s decision, saying: "We remain committed to improving our partnership with Pakistan and to working closely together as our two nations confront common security challenges in the region."

A top-level meeting of Pakistani civil and military leadership held in Islamabad on Tuesday evening gave the clearest indication of the Pakistani willingness to reopen the NATO supply routes.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who headed the meeting, said in a televised address that the supply line closures “not only impinge on our relationship with the United States but also on our relations with the 49 other member states of NATO/ISAF.”

Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

*Link for This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources By Eric Schmitt - NY Times
*Speaking Image - Creation of DTN News ~ Defense Technology News 
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News 

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