07/04/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN - UNITED STATES

After Washington’s "apology", Islamabad reopens supply lines to NATO troops

The blockade lasted for seven months, following a U.S. military raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The step is crucial to supply the soldiers in Afghanistan. The decision should lead to the thawing of U.S. aid to Pakistan. Threats of Taliban attacks on convoys.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Islamabad will reopen "fundamental" supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan, for the provision of materials (except weapons) and military transport. The decision follows an official apology from Washington for the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a U.S. air raid in 2011. The move is intended, probably, to unlock some 1.2 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan, frozen for months by Obama because of the dispute between the two countries. Meanwhile, the Taliban and extremist militias inside the country, stationed along the border with Afghanistan, have threatened to attack the convoys that pass on the roads.

The Pakistani government hopes to reopen the supply route to improve relations with Washington, at a low ebb for some time now. Islamabad was for decades the closest U.S. ally in South Asia.  The crisis that began in the aftermath the attack of 26 November and lasted more than seven months, undermined bilateral relations. American officials say they will not change the current fee of 250 dollars, paid to the Pakistani government for the passage of each truck, in spite of an initial request for an increase up to 5 and a half thousand dollars.

Pakistan has long demanded an official apology for the incident. The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not use the term "apology" (apologize), although the Pakistani Ministry of Information said that the roads have been reopened after Washington "was forced to 'apologize' to the people and nation of Pakistan. " During an interview with Minister of Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Clinton admitted "the mistake" and expressed "the deepest regret" for unintended deaths.

However, international policy experts and Pakistani analysts argue that the controversy related to the reopening of "NATO routes" is just one of many elements of tension between the U.S. and Pakistan. Shuja Nawaz, director of the Atlantic Council Center for South Asia, stressed that resolving this dispute "was one of the easiest tasks". The scholar, based in Washington, adds that there are still many unresolved issues - including the fight against terrorists and extremist movements within Pakistan - which dampens expectations for "clarity and light" in the relations between the two countries.

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