U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Pakistan is reopening vital NATO supply routes into Afghanistan after closing them in response to a deadly a U.S. airstrike last November.
Clinton said her Pakistani counterpart Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar also assured her by phone Tuesday that Islamabad will not charge any transit fee in the “larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region.”
In a statement, Clinton also said she reiterated Washington’s deepest regrets for the attack last November that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border. She said the United States “is sorry for the Pakistani military’s losses.”
In a statement during the meeting, the country’s new prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said the continued closure not only harmed Pakistan’s relationship with the United States, but also the other 49 members of NATO.
The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan General John Allen welcomed Pakistan’s decision to reopen the supply lines.
Pakistan closed the NATO supply lines last November after U.S.-led NATO airstrikes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border.
Pakistan demanded a U.S. apology and an end to U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani territory. The attack also prompted Pakistan’s parliament to review its future engagement with the United States.
While Washington did not initially meet Islamabad’s demands, U.S. officials did offer their condolences for the incident.
Pakistani and U.S. officials had been locked in talks to reopen the supply lines, with transit fees reportedly one of the main sticking points.
NATO supplies can enter and exit Afghanistan through Pakistan or through Central Asia, but the northern Central Asian route is more expensive.
Tuesday’s decision comes a day after the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, wrapped up a visit to Islamabad. It was the his second visit to Pakistan in less than a week.
NATO Supply Routes Through Pakistan:
- One route crosses the Khyber Pass and goes to Kabul
- The other route goes through Baluchistan province to Kandahar
- The routes carried about one third of NATO cargo for ISAF forces
- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the closure cost an extra $100 million a month in overland shipping through Central Asia
- Pakistan closed the routes after U.S.-led NATO airstrikes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border last November