Clinton’s ’Sorry’ Helps Reopen Pakistan Routes

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement that “we are sorry” about a deadly border clash led to Pakistan reopening military supply routes and resolved one contentious issue between the two nations.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan has been battered by a series of disputes as the Obama administration plans its exit from the 11-year war in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistani officials chose to accept Clinton’s comments as the apology they had demanded, leading to the supply-lines deal that was the first evidence of headway in months on issues that have held up more than $1 billion in U.S. funding for Pakistan.

While military supplies may begin moving to coalition forces in Afghanistan this week, tensions persist. The U.S. wants Pakistan to crack down on Haqqani Network extremists, who launch attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan from Pakistani havens, and the Pakistan government wants the U.S. to end CIA drone strikes aimed a terrorists within its territory.

Resolving the supply-routes dispute “was one of the easiest tasks,” Shuja Nawaz, director of South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, a policy-research group in Washington, said in an interview. There are so many remaining issues “that I don’t expect there to be sweetness and light in this relationship for quite a while,” he said.

Progress may unravel with the next “massive drone strike or a U.S. raid into Pakistan to get a high-value target or a successful strike by Haqqanis inside Afghanistan,” Nawaz said.
Reopening Transit

Pakistan said yesterday it would reopen supply routes to transport non-lethal material and supplies to coalition forces, as well as weapons for the Afghan military. The transit route had been shut since November, after a U.S. military strike mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops and the country’s officials demanded an apology.

While Clinton didn’t use the word “apologize,” Qamar Zaman Kaira, Pakistan’s information minister said in Islamabad that the routes are being reopened after the U.S. was forced “to apologize to the Pakistani people and its nation. If we go into the nitty-gritty of her words, then people will take it one way or another,” he said.

A Pentagon investigation found in December that U.S. forces raiding an Afghan village near the border took heavy machine-gun fire from inside Pakistan and thought it came from insurgents because the U.S. ground commander had been told there were no Pakistani troops in the area. Return fire from U.S. helicopters killed the 24 Pakistani troops.
‘Deepest Regrets’

Clinton said in a statement that she offered “deepest regrets” over the accidental killings during a conversation yesterday with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

“Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives,” Clinton said yesterday. “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.”


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