Pakistan Reopening Supply Lines Into Afghanistan

The U.S. has announced that Pakistan has agreed to reopen its land routes to NATO convoys heading into Afghanistan. The agreement came after Washington again expressed regret for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers who were killed in an errant American air strike last November.

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Pakistan is re-opening key NATO supply lines to Afghanistan. The move came after the Obama administration again said it regrets the loss of life from errant U.S. airstrikes last November. Twenty-four Pakistani soldiers were killed in that incident.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports the long diplomatic squabble ended up costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called her Pakistani counterpart, Hina Rabbani Khar, and reiterated deep regrets over the incident in Solala last November. According to spokesperson Victoria Nuland, both women acknowledge mistakes.

VICTORIA NULAND: The intent here is that we are both sorry for the losses suffered by both our countries in this fight against terrorists.

KELEMEN: She said she wouldn't parse the statement further or describe it as an apology. But the statement was apparently enough to get what the U.S. wanted - the reopening of the ground supply lines into Afghanistan, known as the GLOCs.

NULAND: It was expensive for us during the period when the GLOCs were closed. One of the things that has resulted from this is that we have restored the GLOCs and we are going to be paying the exact same amount as we were paying before. So, we are back to significant savings here.

KELEMEN: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said it was costing the United States $100 million a month extra to get supplies into Afghanistan through a northern route. Nuland said she's hopeful that things are now back on track.

It did take a while but Brian Katulis, of the Center for American Progress, says that's not surprising since there's a lot of baggage in the relationship.

BRIAN KATULIS: So it's hard, I think, to rebuild that mutual trust. But I think this deal is a step in that direction. And I think it's important also to note that the U.S. will not be paying any additional transit fees, as Pakistan once demanded. The fact that it backed down from those demands is a sign that assertive diplomacy, staying engaged here, can actually produce some positive results.

KELEMEN: He says Pakistan also benefits from this agreement, though it may not play well in Islamabad. Shuja Nawaz, the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, agrees, saying for years Pakistani leaders have been fueling anti-American sentiment.

SHUJA NAWAZ: So, there is a very difficult job for the government in Pakistan to sell this rapprochement to its own people.

KELEMEN: Nawaz says a parliamentary session on this issue that should've taken a couple of days lasted months, complicating negotiations over the transit routes. In the end, Pakistani officials accepted a statement that Nawaz says falls short of a full apology, though Secretary Clinton does say she's sorry for Pakistani losses.

NAWAZ: Sorry was very hard to get to. But sorry may not be enough, because there are still some very serious fault lies in the U.S./Pakistan relationship that persist.

KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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