Pakistan will re-open the supply lines that the U.S. and its allies use to supply troops in neighboring Afghanistan after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. is sorry for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers mistakenly killed by a NATO airstrike last November.
In a call with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Clinton offered "our sincere condolences" to the families of Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. "Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military," Clinton said in a statement on Tuesday. "We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again."
Islamabad had continued to demand a full U.S. apology for the strike, closing down the supply lines after the errant airstrike along the border with Afghanistan. Pakistan's border closing has cost the U.S. heavily, forcing NATO and the Pentagon to use more expensive land-based routes into Afghanistan from the north. After meetings in Pakistan that included Afghan war commander John Allen and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, news reports indicated the two countries were getting closer to an agreement to reopen the border-crossings after talks to reopen the ground supply routes faltered in recent months.
Reopening the routes, Clinton said, "is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region. This will also help the United States and ISAF conduct the planned drawdown at a much lower cost. This is critically important to the men and women who are fighting terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan."
Allen, in a statement, welcomed the decision, referencing several visits to Pakistan in recent weeks to meet with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff. “These continuing discussions underscore the importance of working together on the challenges facing our two countries in the days, months, and years to come." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was also pleased. "We remain committed to improving our partnership with Pakistan and to working closely together as our two nations confront common security challenges in the region," he said in a statement.
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