ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s foreign minister suggested Monday that the country should reopen its Afghan border to NATO troop supplies, saying the government has made its point by closing the route for nearly six months in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops.
Reopening the border risks a domestic backlash in Pakistan given Washington’s refusal to apologize for last year’s attack, which it says was an accident. But it could help ensure Pakistan has a role in the future of Afghanistan as NATO prepares to retool its strategy there during a major conference that starts Sunday in Chicago.
Pakistan’s presence would benefit the U.S.-led coalition as well, since the country is seen as key to striking a peace deal with the Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan that would allow foreign troops to withdraw without the nation descending into further chaos.
The supply line running through Pakistan to landlocked Afghanistan will be key to that withdrawal as NATO pulls out more than a decade’s worth of equipment. It has been critical for shipping in supplies as well, although the U.S. has reduced its reliance on Pakistan in recent years by using a more costly route through Central Asia.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the government made the right decision to close the border to NATO to send a message to Washington that the attack on its troops in November was unacceptable.
“It was important to make a point. Pakistan has made a point and now we can move on,” Khar said.
The U.S. welcomed Khar’s comments, but said the two countries have yet to reach a final deal.
Pakistan’s defense committee of the Cabinet, which is responsible for deciding the fate of the supply route, was scheduled to meet today to discuss the issue and could authorize its reopening.
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