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Pakistan reopens border to NATO after US apology

6 July 2012 No Comment

Pakistan will re-open NATO’s supply lines into neighbouring Afghanistan after the most pressing impasse between Pakistan and the US was resolved with a simple “sorry”.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, yesterday phoned Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, and told her “we are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military” in a botched NATO strike last year.

In a statement, she said later, “Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, said she hoped ties between the US and Pakistan would now improve.

“I am confident that both countries can agree on many critical issues, especially on bringing peace to the region,” she said.

Last November, US helicopter gunships led a mistaken attack on a Pakistani army border checkpost in the Mohmand Agency in the country’s north.

In a two-hour battle, 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.

In retaliation, Pakistan shut its border-crossing into Afghanistan to NATO trucks, forcing the US to use a longer, more expensive supply route through central Asia to keep its war effort in Afghanistan afloat.

The closure of the Pakistan border was costing the $US100 million a month. Before the closure about 40 per cent of NATO’s non-weapons cargo was trucked through the checkpoint.

Despite the financial impost, before yesterday, sorry had been the hardest word for the US.

Previously, while America had “expressed regret” for the incident, it stopped short of apologising and a Pentagon investigation had found fault on both sides.

Pakistan now appears set to reopen the supply route at the same price as before the Mohmand incident of $US250 a truck.

In months of terse negotiations before Mrs Clinton’s phone call, Pakistan had demanded $US5000 a truck, before settling at $US3000. The US was prepared to go no higher than $US1000.

But Pakistan did not win any concessions on its other main claim against America, the cessation of drone attacks.

In a set of “Guidelines for revised terms of engagement with the USA/NATO/ISAF”, Pakistan’s national security committee had demanded the “immediate cessation” of drone attacks on Pakistani soil, arguing they were a violation of the country’s sovereignty and killed civilians.

But the US highly values its drone program and never seriously considered abandoning it.

According to the Long War Journal, the US has launched 25 drone strikes this year, killing 168 suspected insurgents and zero civilians.

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