The withheld dollars are part of the US Coalition Support Fund to reimburse Pakistan for its support of US counter-insurgency operations, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby told reporters. Diplomats noted the change in US attitude towards Pakistan following the disruption in their ties over various issues, especially the Salala incident. “Things have started to fall into place,” one diplomat said. Payments to Islamabad were suspended last year amid increased US-Pakistan tensions even before the closure of the land routes into Afghanistan. Pakistan, which had demanded a US apology for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in US aerial strikes, agreed to reopen the lines after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said ‘we are sorry’ in a statement on June 3. “Several trucks have gone through and this will continue,” Kirby told reporters Thursday. “The traffic is starting to flow,” he said. Asked if Defence Secretary Leon Panetta agreed with Clinton’s statement of ‘deepest regrets’, Kirby said Panetta ‘fully supports the approach that was taken’.
While the apology, supply lines reopening and funds transfer were important developments, “it would be a mistake to believe that US-Pak relations are now ‘back on track’,” Alan Kronstadt, a South Asia analyst for the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, said.
“Disputes over drone strikes, intelligence sharing/cooperation, and the role of the Haqqani Network remain serious and unresolved,” Kronstadt said.
Using northern routes as an alternative means to ship supplies into Afghanistan was costing the US about $100 million a month, Panetta said last month. The Pakistan routes were shut for seven months.
Kirby said he didn’t expect the Pentagon to substantially modify a request to shift about $2.1 billion in Pentagon funding into Army and Air Force accounts to pay for the actual and anticipated costs of using the costlier northern land and air routes to move supplies in and out of Afghanistan. Kirby said he didn’t have a breakdown of the costs.
The request is contained in an $8.6 billion Pentagon ‘reprogramming’ that was sent to the Congress. “We do not believe there will be major changes as a result of the opening,” Kirby said of the $2.1 billion potential shift.