ISAF: Pakistan relations normalizing; supply lines could reopen soon
KABUL, Afghanistan — Relations between Pakistan and the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan are “moving back to normal,” a coalition spokesman said this week, a development that could lead to the reopening of supply lines that have been off limits to coalition traffic for the last five months.
Pakistan closed its overland supply routes to NATO convoys in November, after U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan mistakenly called in airstrikes on a Pakistani army position on the border, and 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.
A U.S. investigation concluded both sides shared blame for the incident, in which the Pakistanis fired first, according to the Americans. The U.S. has so far refused to apologize for the airstrikes, while Pakistan has demanded an unconditional apology and refused to accept blame.
Since then, all NATO supplies have come over alternate land routes through Central Asia or by air, and costs have skyrocketed.
U.S. officials told The Associated Press in January that the per-month cost of moving supplies into Afghanistan had gone from $17 million a month to $104 million, a six-fold increase.
Coordination between ISAF and the Pakistani military on border security has continued despite the disagreement and deaths, said Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobsen, a German army officer and spokesman for the coalition. Such coordination is necessary, he said on Tuesday, to prevent an incident like the one in November from happening again.
In addition, talks and negotiations among Afghanistan, Pakistan and the international community are back to “nearly normal speed” on all levels, he said, including dialogue between Pakistan’s senior military leadership and Marine Gen. John Allen, the senior U.S. and NATO officer in Afghanistan.
U.S. aid to Pakistan in the wake of an avalanche that buried at least 130 Pakistani soldiers earlier this month was a sign that relations were normalizing, “and we are hopeful that normalization will reopen the ground lines in Pakistan, in the interest of Pakistan and Afghanistan on an economic basis, in the not too distant future,” Jacobson said.