WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan are trying to work out a separate arrangement for rebuilding the highway used for carrying supplies to Afghanistan, diplomatic sources told Dawn.
On Tuesday, the United States and Pakistan reached an agreement to reopen Nato supply routes to Afghanistan seven months after Islamabad blocked them following a US air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
While announcing the agreement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region.”
The announcement angered many in Pakistan and political commentators demanded that Islamabad should urge the Americans to at least rebuild the highway unpaved by Nato supply vehicles.
When Dawn checked with sources in Washington, it learned that the United States and Pakistan were already working on such an arrangement. The sources said the arrangement was not announced with the agreement to reopen supply routes because it was not finalised yet.
“It’s part of the mix but not confirmed yet,” said one of the sources.
Meanwhile, the US State Department has also confirmed that the United States would not pay any transit fee to the government of Pakistan for using the supply routes, as Secretary Clinton said in her statement.
The statement caused some confusion in Washington where US authorities had earlier said that Pakistan was charging $250 a container before it closed the ground communications lines or the GLOCs. And now it wanted to increase the transit fee to $5,000 a container.
Asked to comment on the secretary’s statement, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said: “Well, there are regular commercial costs associated with this transit as there were before the GLOCs were closed. In reopening them, we will be back at that regular commercial level. There will be no additional fees to Pakistani authorities.”
In a letter to congressional defence committees earlier this week, the Pentagon requested “reprogramming” $8.2 billion in funds previously approved to finance more urgent priorities.
A large portion of the request was due to the costs “associated with the extended closure of the ground lines of communication” in Pakistan, Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby told reporters.
When an Indian reporter suggested that Pakistan may not be happy with an arrangement that brought no money to them, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said: “The statement speaks for itself, and we’re pleased that we can now move on.”
Asked what led Secretary Clinton to say “we are sorry for the losses”, Ms Nuland said: “The statement makes clear, there were mistakes made on both sides that led to the tragic loss of life, and we are both sorry for those.”
But a journalist pointed out that the US did not apologise for the Salala incident and said sorry only for the lives lost in fighting the terrorists.
“I think the intent here is that we are both sorry for the losses suffered by both our countries in this fight against terrorists,” Ms Nuland responded.
Meanwhile, lawmakers from both Republican and Democratic parties welcomed the deal which, they said, would not only help the US save $100 million a month but would also help improve relations with Pakistan.