- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday that Pakistan’s closure of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan is costing the United States $100 million a month.

“The result of that is that it’s very expensive because we’re using the northern transit route in order to be able to draw down our forces and also be able to supply our forces,” Mr. Panetta told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense.

Pakistan closed the supply routes after NATO airstrikes accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border in November. Islamabad has demanded an apology, but Washington has refused, offering only an expression of regret.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon disclosed that U.S. negotiators recently left Pakistan after six weeks without a deal.

However, defense officials say the team is ready to return on short notice, and that dialogue with Pakistan is continuing.

“We hope that the [supply routes] are reopened soon, and we look forward to having our officials go back to Islamabad to seal the deal at some point in the near future,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said Tuesday.

“We’ve reached, in many respects, agreement across a range of technical issues. So we have a few more to work through, and we believe we can get to yes with the Pakistanis at the end of the day on the [supply routes]. And we hope that day comes sooner rather than later,” he said.