Tuesday, July 31, 2012

US and Pakistan Sign NATO Convoy Deal for Afghan War

US and Pakistan sign Nato Afghan convoy deal

Pakistan and America signed a deal regulating Nato convoys travelling to Afghanistan on Tuesday as the two countries try to patch up the differences that almost led to a breakdown in their troubled alliance.

By Rob Crilly, Islamabad
2:36PM BST 31 Jul 2012
Daily Telegraph, UK

Islamabad agreed four weeks ago to reopen its roads to supplies destined for international troops, lifting a blockade imposed when American air strikes killed 24 of its troops last year.

However, it is understood that Pakistan also demanded a written agreement that it would be allowed to scan containers in order to ensure that lethal weapons were not being transported across its territory.

While Nato has only ever used the route for food, fuel, building materials and other non-lethal items, Pakistan is wary of criticism from hardline groups that it is helping international forces kill Afghans.

Under the deal signed in Rawalpindi, the home of Pakistan's powerful military, the US will also release £700m under the Coalition Support Fund to reimburse the troubled nation for fighting militants within its borders.

Richard Hoagland, the deputy US ambassador to Islamabad who signed the agreement on behalf of Washington, hailed it as a "demonstration of increased transparency and openness" between the two governments.

Pakistan lifted its blockade after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologised for the air raid deaths, but a row over security guarantees and compensation have delayed a resumption of normal traffic.

Relations have been strained for more than a year, a period that included the covert US raid to kill Osama bin Laden at his secret Pakistani hideaway.

It comes just a day before the director general of Pakistan's ISI spy agency, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam, begins a three-day visit to Washington for talks with the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Officials are briefing that his visit is another sign of warming relations.

"If the DG ISI is in Washington then you know things are moving in the right direction," said a senior Pakistani government official.

So far, however, only a handful of supply trucks have crossed into Afghanistan.

The Torkham border crossing, at the heart of the Kyhber Pass, was closed to Nato traffic last Thursday because of security concerns.

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