U.S., Pakistan reach deal to reopen Afghan supply routes
By Andrew Quinn and Qasim Nauman
WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan and the United States reached a deal on Tuesday to reopen land routes that NATO uses to supply troops in Afghanistan, ending a seven-month crisis that damaged ties between the two countries and complicated the U.S.-led Afghan war effort.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a telephone call with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, apologized for a November NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November and prompted an infuriated Islamabad to slam the supply routes closed.
"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," Clinton said in a statement following the conversation.
Khar, in turn, informed Clinton that Pakistan would reopen the supply routes and, in a major concession to the United States, would not follow through on threats to dramatically hike the transit fees.
The deal, which came after several previous attempts at negotiation had failed amid a dispute over a U.S. apology, opened the prospect of broader improvement in U.S.-Pakistan ties.
But even with this hurdle down, others remain. They include Pakistan's opposition to U.S. drone strikes on its territory, and Washington's allegations that Islamabad condones, or even assists, anti-American militants.
In her statement, Clinton said the supply lines agreement "is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan's support for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region." She added that the deal would allow the United States and its NATO partners to conduct their planned military drawdown from Afghanistan at a much lower cost.
U.S. officials said the United States was spending $100 million more a month to send supplies across a long alternate route overland across Central Asia and into Afghanistan. Continued...