Pakistan reopens NATO route after US says sorry
Oil tankers, which were used to transport NATO fuel supplies to Afghanistan, are parked at a compound in Karachi. Pakistan and the US agree to reopen the NATO route. AP photoPakistan agreed to reopen key supply routes into Afghanistan on July 3, ending a bitter stand-off after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was sorry for the loss of life that occured in a botched air raid.
A U.S. official said that as part of the deal Washington will release about $1.1 billion to the Pakistani military from a U.S. “coalition support fund” designed to reimburse Pakistan for the cost of counter-insurgency operations.
The money had been frozen due to the tensions between the two countries. The agreement ends a seven-month diplomatic row that had seen U.S.-Pakistan ties, already soured by the U.S. killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, plunge to a new low and gravely impede U.S. and NATO efforts in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry yesterday welcomed the deal, saying that it demonstrated the “critical role played by friendly and brotherly Pakistan regarding regional security.”
The breakthrough, announced by Clinton after she spoke by telephone with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, follows months of negotiations. Islamabad had steadfastly insisted Washington should apologize for the November attack when a U.S. aircraft killed 24 Pakistan soldiers.
However, Washington mentioned mistakes on both sides. “Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives,” Clinton said in a statement. “We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.” Pakistan confirmed it had decided to reopen the routes into Afghanistan, which are vital as the U.S. and its NATO allies withdraw troops and equipment from Afghanistan ahead of a 2014 deadline. The U.S. commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, praised the deal as “a demonstration of Pakistan’s desire to help secure a brighter future for both Afghanistan and the region at large.”
Thousands of Pakistani truck drivers prepared to resume key NATO supply convoys.
Threat from Taliban
The Pakistani Taliban militant group immediately threatened to attack trucks that resume carrying supplies into Afghanistan. “We will attack NATO supplies all over Pakistan. We will not allow anyone to use Pakistani soil to transport supplies that will be used against the Afghan people,” the group’s spokesman said. Clinton said Pakistan wouldn’t charge any new transit fee, and the reopening would help the U.S. draw down its forces in Afghanistan “at a much lower cost.”
The U.S. government has never paid transit fees directly. Pakistan charges companies $250 per truck for transit, and the U.S. accounts for those fees in its contracts with those companies, so it pays indirectly. Pakistan had asked for a flat fee of up to $5,000, but Washington offered road construction projects instead.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.