- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2012

The United States has pulled its negotiators from Pakistan after failing to reach a deal on reopening ground supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The decision was taken to withdraw the negotiators after Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, last week refused to meet with Peter Lavoy, an assistant secretary of defense who traveled to Pakistan in a bid to resolve the dispute.

“I believe that some of the team left over the weekend and the remainder of the team will leave shortly,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

“This was a U.S. decision,” he added.

Pakistan shut down the supply routes on Nov. 26 soon after a NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan.

A Pakistani parliamentary committee in March demanded an apology for the incident and called for an end to U.S. drone strikes against terrorist suspects in Pakistan.

The Obama administration expressed regret over the incident, but stopped short of issuing an outright apology.

The U.S. military has taken some responsibility for the border incident, but said its forces acted in self-defense. Pakistan refutes that explanation.

Pakistan’s demand for a fee of $5,000 per truck traveling to Afghanistan has been another sticking point in the talks.

The Pakistani routes are the most convenient and cost-effective way to supply coalition forces in Afghanistan. They will be crucial to take heavy weaponry and supplies out of Afghanistan as NATO begins to draw down its troops before the end of 2014.

Last year, about 40 percent of coalition supplies were transported through Afghanistan’s northern neighbor, Uzbekistan, while 30 percent was sent by air and the rest through Pakistan.

The closure of the supply routes has also hit Pakistan’s economy because the trucks provide employment and income to Pakistanis.

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