US Blinks First: Apologises as 8 Month Long Supply Blockade Lifted by Pakistan
PKKH Exclusive | by Tabish Qayyum
ISLAMABAD – In what is bound to be an unpopular decision, Pakistan has agreed to restore (GLOC) route for the NATO supplies after the Americans gave in to Pakistan Army’s demand of an apology for the Salala massacre in November lat year.
Pakistan had shut off two key land supply routes in the aftermath of what it called a ‘deliberate’ attack, resulting in the death of 22 of its soldiers.
According to latest reports, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accepted that Salala attack was a mistake on US’s part and apologized for the incident. An official statement is still expected from government of Pakistan.
Earlier President Obama claimed that he is expecting good news from Pakistan while General John Allen also apologized on the incident that was considered as the main bone of contention that was hindering the resumption process. There were indications of this outcome since Gen. John Allen, who was on his second visit to Pakistan in the last few days, indulged in an intense dialogue with Pakistani counterparts who are said to have discussed a long list of demands with regards to Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan’s future. Top of the list of these demands was an unconditional apology for the Salala massacre.
“The continued closure of supply lines not only infringes on our relationship with the U.S., but also on our relations with the 49 other member states of NATO/ISAF,” Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told senior government and military officials, according a statement issued by his office earlier.
Since the blockade on 26 November 2011, US has suffered huge economic constraints due to the cost of supplying its forces through the expensive alternate routes of Central Asia. Pentagon has asked Congress to shift billions of dollars in the defense budget to pay for added fuel costs to ferry supplies to Afghanistan after Pakistan closed its border to NATO convoys, U.S. officials said Monday.
In an 82-page letter to congressional defense committees, the Pentagon requested “reprogramming” $8.2 billion in funds previously approved to finance more urgent priorities, officials said, AFP reported. There were “some unanticipated costs that we just didn’t foresee,” spokesman Captain John Kirby told reporters.
Government is expected to face huge backlash from Difa-e-Pakistan Council that comprises of some of the most hard line parties such as Jamat-e-Islami, Jamat-ud-Dawa and Jamiyat-ulema-e-Islam who have announced a ‘Long March’ in case supplies are restored.
Addressing the convention on Sunday, Chairman DPC Maulana Sami-ul-Haq said that the rulers of Pakistan have become salves of America whose drone attacks have been killing innocent citizens of the country. He asked as to why the government did not approach the UN to get the drone attacks stopped. Only an hour ago, Imran khan leader of PTI has also shown his resentment on the expected resumption and vowed to protest in case it happens.
Tensions have remained high between US and Pakistan as US closes towards 2014 deadline of withdrawal from Afghanistan shifting its role to training and assistance. There have been numerous incidents where NATO containers were attacked. DPC has categorically stated that it will protest and resist in a non-violent manner, with more political parties such as PTI expected to join, it is yet to be seen how relations between US and PAK develop from where they have been so far.
More on this story soon.
Tabish Qayyum is the co-founder of Defense and Geo-Political Magazine Fortress and Investigative Journalist at PKKH. He is also a writer and educational consultant. He can be reached on twitter @tabesch.
Statement by Secretary Clinton on her Call With Pakistani Foreign Minister Khar
Secretary of State
This morning, I spoke by telephone with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
I once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November. I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. 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.
As I told the former Prime Minister of Pakistan days after the Salala incident, America respects Pakistan’s sovereignty and is committed to working together in pursuit of shared objectives on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.
In today’s phone call, Foreign Minister Khar and I talked about the importance of taking coordinated action against terrorists who threaten Pakistan, the United States, and the region; of supporting Afghanistan’s security, stability, and efforts towards reconciliation; and of continuing to work together to advance the many other shared interests we have, from increasing trade and investment to strengthening our people-to-people ties. Our countries should have a relationship that is enduring, strategic, and carefully defined, and that enhances the security and prosperity of both our nations and the region.
The Foreign Minister and I were reminded that our troops – Pakistani and American – are in a fight against a common enemy. We are both sorry for losses suffered by both our countries in this fight against terrorists. We have enhanced our counter-terrorism cooperation against terrorists that threaten Pakistan and the United States, with the goal of defeating Al-Qaida in the region.
In addition, I am pleased that Foreign Minister Khar has informed me that the ground supply lines (GLOC) into Afghanistan are opening. Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region. This is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region. This will also help the United States and ISAF conduct the planned drawdown at a much lower cost. This is critically important to the men and women who are fighting terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Khar has informed me that, consistent with current practice, no lethal equipment will transit the GLOC into Afghanistan except for equipping the ANSF. In concluding the call, I reiterated our deep appreciation to the Government and the people of Pakistan for their many sacrifices and their critical contribution to the ongoing fight against terrorism and extremism.