ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan‘s foreign minister indicated Monday the time has come to reopen the country’s Afghan border to NATO troop supplies, saying the government had made its point by closing the route for nearly six months in retaliation for deadly U.S. airstrikes on Pakistani troops.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s comments offered the clearest indication yet that Pakistan is ready to give in to U.S. pressure to reopen the supply line, even though Washington so far has refused to apologize for last year’s attack and end drone strikes in the country as demanded by Pakistan‘s Parliament.
The Pakistani government is likely to face domestic backlash for reopening the NATO route, given rampant anti-American sentiment in the country and vocal opposition to the move by hard-line Islamists and their political allies still angry that the U.S. killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Washington says the November attack was an accident.
But there could be clear benefits to reopening the route as well.
Pakistan is keen to attend a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21 that will largely focus on the Afghan war, and an invitation is likely contingent on the country’s allowing troop supplies to resume. The move could also free up more than a billion dollars in U.S. military aid that has been frozen for the past year.
“It was important to make a point, Pakistan has made a point, and now we can move on,” Ms. Khar said during a press conference in Islamabad when asked whether she believed Pakistan should reopen the supply route.