NATO bypasses Pakistan with alternative route deal

NATO bypasses Pakistan with alternative route deal

NATO bypasses Pakistan with alternative route deal

NATO’s oil tankers stand parked near oil terminals in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi in this 2011 photo. NATO signs a new agreement completely bypassing Pakistan. AFP photo

NATO has concluded agreements with Central Asian nations allowing it to evacuate vehicles and other military equipment from Afghanistan and completely bypass Pakistan, which once provided the main supply route for coalition forces.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said June 4 that Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan had agreed to allow the reverse transport of alliance equipment.

Since NATO already has an agreement with Russia, the deal will allow it to ship back to Europe tens of thousands of vehicles, containers and other items through the overland route when the evacuation picks up pace later this year. Pakistan shut down the southern supply routes six months ago after U.S. airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two border posts, forcing NATO to switch almost completely to the so-called Northern Distribution Network.

After months of stalemate, Pakistani leaders last month signaled that negotiations on the supply routes were progressing, just in time to secure an invitation to the weekend NATO summit in Chicago. But since then the two sides have made little progress in the talks, officials said.

Apology precondition: Khar
The announcement on June 4 appears to indicate that Washington and the allies are now preparing for the possibility that the supply link through Pakistan, said to be about six times cheaper than its northern alternative, may not be reopened at all.

NATO plans to hand over lead responsibility for the war against the Taliban to the Afghan army and police by the middle of next year, and withdraw its troops by the end of 2014. The deal came as Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that the U.S. should apologize for an air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers if it wants Pakistan to reopen key supply routes into Afghanistan.

A U.S. apology is “something which should have been forthcoming the day this incident happened, and what a partnership not only demands, but requires,” she said. Khar however said that despite the political challenges, the United States should live up to its principles of doing “what we consider to be right rather than what is more popular.” She noted that Pakistan also has political obstacles of its own.

“For us in Pakistan... the most popular thing to do right now is to not move on NATO supply routes at all. It is to close them forever,” she said.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.


ISLAMABAD - Agence France-Presse

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