The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday issued an apology to Pakistan for the 2011 NATO air attack on Pakistani troops, which resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani servicemen. In return, the Pakistani authorities confirmed that they will be reopening the Southern Distribution Network (SDN), which was the NATO’s primary supply line to Afghanistan prior to its closure in 2011. The unconditional American apology ends a seven month long diplomatic standoff between the Pakistanis and the Americans, which resulted in the significant deterioration of military relations between the two sides.
Clinton said that she issued the apology through telephone to the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar yesterday morning. She said that she regretted the loss of lives, and offered condolences to the family members of the slain Pakistani servicemen. Clinton further said that the US is committed to make sure that similar incidents will never happen again in the future. Clinton claimed that the Pakistani foreign minister had promised her that the supply routes will be reopened, in a matter of few days.
Leon Panetta, the United States Secretary of Defence had commented last month that the closure of the SDN was costing the NATO as much as $100 million every month, due to the increase in freight and transportation expenses. According to the defence analysts, the delayed decision to issue an apology was probably influenced by the mounting costs, as well as by the NATO timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was finalized earlier this year.
According to the Pakistani authorities, the supplies will resume immediately, and a total of 77 military trucks are expected cross the Pakistan-Afghanistan border today. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban has condemned the decision by the government to allow the transport of the NATO trucks through Pakistani territory. Senior Taliban officials warned that they will resume their attacks on NATO convoys, if the government does not rescind the permission.
A total of 24 Pakistani soldiers had died in the NATO attacks on 26th November 2011, which occurred in Salala, located within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A further 13 soldiers were injured in the attacks, which was conducted using Apache helicopters and F-15E Eagle fighter jets. Initially the Americans refused to issue an apology, deteriorating the diplomatic relations between the two sides.