Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Photo by Haraz N. Ghanbari/AFP/GettyImages
UPDATE: NATO trucks carrying supplies crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan on Thursday, the first vehicles to resume military supply routes after Pakistani officials ended a seven-month long transit ban earlier this week, Al Jazeera reports.
The trucks had been held at the Chaman crossing since Pakistan closed supply routes in November when the United States refused to issue an apology for a drone strike that killed 24 Pakistani troops.
Since the closure, most trucks were pulled back to Karachi, according to the Associated Press. Truckers in the port city are now preparing to resume the route after months of stagnation, but security concerns will likely keep traffic along the route slow for some time.
The journey from Karachi to the Afghan border can take days, passing through treacherous Taliban-controlled territory. A spokesman for the militant group yesterday threatened transit workers on the supply route, saying they will be considered “friends of the U.S.,” CNN reported. The Taliban has killed drivers and other workers before.
Although the lift of transit ban eases relations between Pakistan and the U.S., the alliance between the two countries remains tenuous. Anti-American sentiment in Pakistan remains strong, particularly over drone strikes. Meanwhile, the Obama administration faces criticism from Republicans for offering a formal apology.
Tuesday, July 3: Pakistan is set to reopen NATO supply routes to Afghanistan after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally apologized Tuesday for the death of 24 Pakistani troops in a November airstrike, ending a seven-month stalemate between the United States and Pakistan, the Associated Press reports.
Clinton apologized to Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar by telephone yesterday, offering a conclusion to an issue that has plagued the already troubled relations between two countries since the end of last year.
Pakistani officials closed the roads in November after the United States refused to apologize for the airstrike near the Afghanistan border. The blockade forced the United States to use much costlier routes through Russia and Central Asia in order to get supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan. The Pentagon estimated the bill for the substitute routes added up to $100 million extra per month.
Against the highly politicized backdrop of an election year, the Obama administration internally debated for months how to best respond to Pakistan's demand for a formal apology. The White House and Pentagon offered condolences and statements of regret about the incident but always stopped shy of saying “sorry,” apparently the precise word Pakistani officials waited to hear, the New York Times writes.
In negotiations to reopen the routes during the past several months, Pakistan requested a much higher tariff for each NATO supply truck than the $250 per truck set before the blockade. However, upon Clinton’s apology, the demands were dropped.
“This is a tangible demonstration for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region,” said Clinton, who emphaszied that the new development will likely drive down the cost of military operations in the area.
"This seven-month standoff has clearly shown the pitfalls in the US-Pakistan relationship," writes the BBC's M. Ilyas Khan. "The Americans will continue to feel the need to keep Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan at a minimum, and will remain wary of Islamabad's tendency to whip up anti-Americanism at home to achieve regional objectives."