WASHINGTON: As a US Senate subcommittee heard from top American generals and members of the defense setup over the resumption of Nato supply routes and a possible US apology to Pakistan over the November check post attack, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said that the administration has already expressed regret over the incident, however there were other elements at play which prevented the supply route from being reopened.
"The problem is that at this point that they're asking not just for that (apology) but other elements that have to be resolved," Panetta told the US Senate Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the FY2013 Budget Request for the Defense Department.
When pushed by the committee that Pakistan wanted a high level apology from the civilian US administration, Panetta said that the US has already expressed regret for the Salala incident, but there were other issues, currently being negotiated with Pakistan, which would determine reopening of the Nato supply routes.
Closed routes costs US $100million a month
Asked to justify spendings and an increase listed in the defense budget, Panetta said that the closed Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) through Pakistan were costing the US as much as $100 million a month to maintain supplies on alternate routes.
The Secretary said that it was ‘very expensive’ to use the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) to both provide supplies to US forces there and for the logistical support for withdrawal efforts.
US apology key to reopening GLOCs
As Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey and Panetta testified before the Senate subcommittee on Appropriations for Defense, Senator Dianne Feinstein said that mistakes had been made on both the US and Pakistan side when Nato helicopters attacked the Salala border check post, killing 24 soldiers as a result.
During the hearing, Senator Feinstein said that based on her discussion with ISAF Commander General John Allen, it was clear that both sides had made mistakes during the incident. She said it was her information that Pakistan, above all, wanted a civilian announcement that mistakes were made on the US side and that they would lower the cost in return for an apology.
"The national security of this country is best served if we have a positive relationship with Pakistan", Feinstein said, adding added that with the appointment of a new ISI head and other factors, "this might be a new opportunity to do that."
Senator Feinstein asked why there can't be a statement on the matter of mistakes made by the US.
Panetta countered that it's not so simple. "That isn't the only issue."
In response to a question on whether military assistance to Pakistan should be cut, Secretary Panetta said, "I'd be very careful about shutting down aid to Pakistan. I'd look at conditions of what we want them to do."