Clinton’s Apology Reopens NATO Supply Route

The American secretary of state says “sorry” for the accidental death of Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan has agreed to reopen NATO supply routes into Afghanistan after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers during an airstrike last November.

The United States spent an additional $100 million per month to transport supplies to the NATO mission in Afghanistan through Central Asia while the route was shut. The Salala raid, as Pakistan refers to the incident which touched off the closure, topped off a bad year for American-Pakistani relations.

“We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military,” Clinton said in a statement that was issued by her State Department.

The apology and Pakistan’s agreement follow a flurry of high level contacts between American and Pakistani officials. General John Allen, the American commander of international forces in Afghanistan, met last week with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army chief of staff. Over the weekend, Secretary Clinton telephoned Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan’s new prime minister. Early this week, she made the final call, with Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, to settle the matter.

Last month, a team of American negotiators withdrew from Pakistan after fourty-five days of technical talks. Officials insisted that the negotiations had not failed but merely come to the point where politics would take over.

While Pakistan insisted on additional transit fees, the true stumbling block was Pakistan’s insistence that the Americans issue a formal apology, not just an expression of condolences. Clinton’s use of the word “sorry” seems to have clinched the deal.

Clinton’s statements notes that Pakistan has dropped the issue of additional transit fees in “the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan.”

The American relationship with Pakistan is far from repaired. Despite Clinton’s assertion that the United States respects Pakistan’s sovereignty, drone strikes into Pakistani territory have continued and resentment for the raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a compound near the city of Abbottabad remains.