US sees no early reopening of NATO supply route through Pakistan: Report

Published: May 5, 2012

NATO land supply line passing through Pakistan was suspended after the November 26, checkpost attack. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

WASHINGTON: As the Taliban kicks off its spring fighting season in Afghanistan, an agreement with Pakistan that would help NATO supply its troops, could be weeks or months away, forcing military leaders to spend two-and-a-half times as much to ship some supplies through Central Asia.

The Obama administration remains locked in negotiations with Pakistan to reopen the key supply routes into Afghanistan, and officials do not expect talks bogged down over proposed tariffs and US military assistance to reach resolution anytime soon.

The continued closure of ground routes, which Islamabad shut after two dozen of its soldiers were killed by NATO aircraft in a November raid, poses one more challenge to US President Barack Obama’s already troubled campaign in Afghanistan.

A deal is almost certainly impossible before May 20-21, when Obama will host a NATO leaders conference in his hometown of Chicago. There, Western leaders will define plans for moving out of Afghanistan and for funding local troops they hope can contain a resilient insurgency when NATO withdraws.

A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that talks in Islamabad between Pakistani and US officials on supply routes, were continuing this week, but “no decisions are imminent.”

“There’s value in continuing to have those discussions, but there’s no sense those talks are going to turn into decisions” shortly, the official said.

A deal would require agreement on Pakistan’s proposal to impose tariffs on NATO supplies, including how tariffs would be formulated, where that money would go, and how the West would ensure those funds were being used appropriately.

Another issue stalling the talks is disagreement over how much the United States should reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism activity by Pakistani forces.

The United States believes it owes Pakistan about $1 billion in arrears for that program, called Coalition Support Funds, while Pakistan contends the figure is much higher, almost three times as much. The Pentagon has approved over $8.8 billion in military reimbursements for Pakistan since 2002.

New Arrangement

Once those arrears have been paid, both countries appear to want to set up a new arrangement for providing US financial support for Pakistan’s anti-militant activities.

Pakistan’s supply routes have been closed since the November 26 cross-border NATO air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged already tumultuous ties between the two uneasy allies to their lowest point in years.

Before their closure, the two land supply routes through Pakistan accounted for just under a third of all cargo that the NATO-led force in Afghanistan shipped there. The closure has held up thousands of tons of equipment.

Pakistan has said it will impose new tariffs on ports and roads used by NATO, in part to express Pakistani outrage over the border deaths and in part to shore up funding for its fight against militants that target the Pakistani state.

The Pentagon says the route closure has not yet had a real impact on the fight in Afghanistan. “Obviously it gets more challenging as we get closer to 2014,” the US official said, when most foreign combat troops will make their way home.

In a report released this week, the Defense Department warned that a prolonged closure of the supply routes could “significantly degrade” withdrawal operations as NATO nations try to establish a modicum of stability in Afghanistan before most of their troops pull out at the end of 2014.

While the Taliban has been pushed out of some areas since 2009, when Obama began a troop surge designed to turn around a long-neglected war, the insurgency remains resilient.

The talks come as the Obama administration tries to repair ties with Pakistan also damaged by US drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas and the US raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year.

They also come at a sensitive moment in Pakistan, where the parliament has approved recommendations from its national security committee on ties with the United States, including a demand to end drone strikes and an apology for the soldiers’ deaths as one of the conditions for resuming the supply route.

“Certainly the domestic situation in Pakistan has a role to play” in the negotiations, the US official said.

Reader Comments (15)

  • gp65
    May 5, 2012 - 3:35AM

    So it looks like the only thing being negotiated is the money part. HAs Pakistan agreed to overlook continuing drones and lck of apology – which were pre-requisites per PCNS.

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  • Amjad
    May 5, 2012 - 4:11AM

    Unfortunately Musharraf was very short sighted in gifting away transit rights through Pakistan. The Central Asian countries and Russia should be used as a benchmark and the US should not have no problem in paying the same if not a slightly more higher rate for goods travelling through Pakistan. I don’t think that the US can afford to be paying three times as much for goods for another year. The two nations are allies and should work together to root out terrorism in the region. Having said that, the West owes Pakistan a great deal because they suffered the most because of the current war and when Pakistan was a front line state which defeated Soviets in Afghanistan and ended the Cold War. It would only be fair for the Western states which use the Pakistan transit route to improve and rebuild the roads, railways and ports which are used to transport the goods.

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  • Cautious
    May 5, 2012 - 4:11AM

    NATO seems to be doing just fine without using Pakistan — why Pakistan hasn’t figured that out is beyond me. Your leverage was never as great as you thought and it’s getting less each day. Further – your not honoring the agreements made by the prior administration which was stronger and more reliable than this one — why would the American’s think that your going to honor the next agreement?

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  • Blithe
    May 5, 2012 - 4:36AM

    Domestic situation is called democracy
    with an active opposition.

    No more Mush to fast track things for US.

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  • May 5, 2012 - 6:09AM

    As you sow so shall you reap!!

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  • Babloo
    May 5, 2012 - 6:46AM

    USA can put the economic squeeze and block all WB and IMF loans, until pakistan pleads with it to resume NATO routes. USA can do it if they are smart.

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  • Ahmer Ali
    May 5, 2012 - 9:27AM

    Difa-e-Council Pakistan (D.C.P) long live and Allah Almighty may give courage and bravery to Difa-e-Council Pakistan (D.C.F) to do so on permanent basis.

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  • Nikarish
    May 5, 2012 - 10:41AM

    Pakistan, a lost country really.

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  • Ahmer Ali
    May 5, 2012 - 10:51AM

    @Babloo:
    You are right and please must do so as soon as possible on priority basis and see what happens to the US’ and NATO’s troops in Afghanistan.Dear Mr. Babloo you must keep it in your mind strongly and firmly that just due to Pakistan army’s check posts on Afghanistan’s border US’ and NATO’s forces are enough safe and secure in Afghanistan and in case of removing Pakistan army’s check posts and closing aerial NATO’s supply route from Pakistan shall create more and more difficulties for the NATO’s and US’ forces in Afghanistan.

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  • May 5, 2012 - 2:09PM

    ” strained relations”
    who is responsible for,let see.

    In the first instance,it is an admitted fact that there is wide spy net in side the country,that is confronted of international law and law of the land also.

    Pakistan was justified in protesting,violation was committed by slamming in with helicopter and raided the house of most wanted figure.Pakistan was not informed,it is open violation of global law.

    Secondly,drone attacks into the land of an sovereign ,independent state is equal to the aggression,there are many options can be adopted having create a consensus.

    The incident of Salala in which 24 innocent lives of military man were lost,it was a great shock for the nation.and people of Pakistan is still on protest.

    In case,American behave will remain same in future,United State would have lost its best ally in the region.

    As a single super power it has some obligations but there is no permission to go beyond the global law and moral attitudes.

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  • May 5, 2012 - 2:39PM

    As is claimed by some concerned quarters, mostly tribal militants, Punjabi Taliban, Afghans, Arabs, and Chechen and Uzbek militants have training camps in the area and often suffer losses in the drone strikes.

    The claim needs comprehensive prob for rightly come to the conclusion,despite of all,global law does not permit to any foreign power slammed into the territory of a independent state without prior permission,consensus on the disputed matter or issue is must..

    Explosions,in which many innocent has been killed is counter productive being faced by Pakistan.
    And on the other hand,the strategy is not successful, has been failed to eradicate roots of insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Comprehensive change in the strategy is dire need of the time.

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  • Rizwan
    May 5, 2012 - 5:12PM

    @Babloo:
    By doing this they will dig their own grave!! Pakistan will extend its cooperation with China, Russia and Iran, and then something will happen what your Indian Air Chief already stated days ago. I dont think americans are that stupid!Recommend

  • Good decision
    May 5, 2012 - 7:16PM

    @Ahmer Ali:
    Looks like you are new to the current world. USA/NATO, RAW, MOSSAD, SANTA CLAUSE, ALIENS all know where your terrorists outfits are. When all the above are ready, it will be Kingdom come. Any takers?

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  • Rana Amjad
    May 6, 2012 - 10:33PM

    Death wish in progress!

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  • NuPak
    May 7, 2012 - 6:41AM

    Difa-e-Council Pakistan (D.C.P) will not back down until United Nations sanctions Economic Embargo against Pakistan and bring all local activity to a halt. Why DCP want that? If the people of Pakistan hate their bombing of schools, Masajid, markets and killing of young army soldiers, Women and Children, then this is the revenge they can inflict upon the Pak People i.e. short of an all out war.
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