WASHINGTON: With the Nato Chicago summit nearing, the US remains hopeful for a signal from Islamabad that the supply route, blocked for six months, would be reopened sooner, rather than later.
Earlier in the month, it seemed as if Nato had subjected extending an invitation to the summit to reopening of the route. With top Pakistani officials gathering in a huddle midweek and declaring that keeping the supply line closed was hurting Pakistan more than helping, and that Pakistan must “move on from Salala,” that the invitation was extended, with the matter of routes reopening notwithstanding.
For the US, the official line holds that talks, despite taking a breather on Thursday, were ongoing, with ‘real progress’ and a declared urgency in bringing closure to the issue.
With negotiators from both sides due to resume on Friday, the possibility of a deal in time for the conference cannot be ruled out.
Discussion on GLOCs continue
On Thursday Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense George Little, in a press briefing at the Pentagon, said that the discussions on Ground Lines Of Communications (GLOCs) continue.
Not commenting on the various figures reported in the press on how much the re-opening of the routes would cost, Little said that they remain hopeful that the routes will be opened.
He said that they have supplies in Afghanistan, but it would be “helpful to have the routes re-opened”.
One-on-one Zardari, Obama Chicago meeting up in the air
In a press briefing just days before the United States hosts the NATO summit in the city of Chicago, White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon says that there are no plans yet for US President Barack Obama and President Asif Zardari to have a separate bilateral meeting, however he clarified that they will meet during the course of the summit in the Afghanistan meetings.
In response to a question, the White House advisor said, “President Zardari was invited to attend the summit and he will do so. He is coming with the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary.” Donilon said that the Pakistani President would attend the meetings being held on Afghanistan on the first day of the summit. Pakistan army chief, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is not due to attend the summit.
Donilon said that there has been “real progress” on opening the NATO supply routes. “The key government groups in Islamabad have instructed their negotiators to move to conclude the negotiations.” However, he said that he could not judge at this point when a decision in this matter would be taken.
The security advisor said that there are three key issues that they expect to discuss vis a vis Afghanistan, which include how the Afghan forces will get into combat mode as ISAF forces shift to training and advising mode, the size, structure and sustainability of the Afghan National Force post-2014 and the nature of the presence of NATO in Afghanistan after 2014.
Donilon declined to comment on compensation given to victims of drone strikes in countries other than Afghanistan, and also didn’t comment on the lawsuits filed by family members of victims of drone strikes in Pakistan. However, he said that the US has undertaken a determined and targeted effort against al Qaeda and its associates.
“That effort has been successful, and it has a lot of elements to it.” The security advisor added that it was carefully overseen by the White House and senior members of the administration. Referring to White House official John Brennan’s speech on drones at a think tank in late April, Donilon said it was “consistent with international and domestic law.”
US-Pakistan negotiations take a day long breather
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, while declining to comment on whether a decision on the re-opening of the NATO supply routes would happen before the NATO summit in Chicago this weekend, said that the US is continuing its discussions with Pakistan on the Ground Lines of Communication.
In response to a question, Nuland said that the teams discussing the matter had taken a pause on Thursday and would resume on Friday.
She declined to comment whether the US Embassy in Islamabad had increased security after NATO countries’ embassies received envelopes with black powder on Wednesday.