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Pakistan to let trucks roll into Afghanistan after Clinton apologizes for US airstrike

The routes, which supply U.S. troops with everything they need to survive, were reopened after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Pakistan 'We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military." NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

Pakistan said it will reopen land routes that the United States and other NATO nations use to supply troops in Afghanistan, seven months after the roads were closed in response to an attack by U.S. aircraft that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, NBC News reported on Tuesday.

The move comes after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on the telephone with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and apologized for the incident in Salala last November.

"Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military," Clinton said in a paper statement.


On the phone call, Khar informed Clinton that the supply lines through Pakistan into Afghanistan are opening and that Pakistan would not charge a transit fee for the routes.

Afghans are 'no different from any American' 

"Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region," the State Department said.

Pakistani Taliban warned they would attack trucks and oil tankers carrying supplies for the foreign forces in Afghanistan.

"We were shocked after hearing that Pakistan was going to reopen NATO supply line," Ihsanullah Ihsan, spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban told NBC's Mushtaq Yusufzai. "Pakistan is a U.S. slave and wanted the entire nation to become its slave. But we are here and have made all preparations for creating hurdles for NATO supplies. We have a modern strategy to attack NATO supplies from wherever they pass through via Pakistan." 

Reuters

Tankers used to carry fuel for NATO forces wait to cross into Afghanistan at a compound in Karachi on July 3, 2012.

The supply routes were closed by Pakistan in protest of a U.S. strike Nov. 26 on a Pakistani border post at Salala in the country's tribal areas. The strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, and the incident was borne of mistrust and miscommunication, according to a U.S. military investigation. But Pakistani officials maintained the strike was deliberate and they closed the overland supply routes, demanding a U.S. apology. 

U.S. officials have used careful language in the months since, saying they "regret" the loss of life, but stopping short of an actual apology.

Pakistani and U.S. officials told NBC News recently that language acceptable to both sides was the subject of many high-level discussions. Several U.S. and  International Security Assistance Force delegations have visited or reached out to Islamabad in the last seven months, including a recent flurry of activity that involved a visit last week from ISAF commander Gen. John Allen and a weekend phone call from Clinton to newly appointed Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

A series of domestic political crises in Pakistan contributed to the delay, including the sacking of one prime minister and appointment of another, keeping the civilian government pre-occupied with maintaining power and unable or unwilling to make significant, foreign policy decisions.

Anjum Naveed / AP

Images of daily life, political pursuits, religious rites and deadly violence.

A U.S. official told NBC News that discussions to reopen the supply lines widened to include negotiations over back payment for coalition support funds, which the U.S. pays to Pakistan for operations in Afghanistan, drone strikes within Pakistan  and a higher rate per container for use of the supply routes.

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Many in the U.S. had pinned their hopes on the Chicago NATO Summit in May as the turning point in declining U.S.-Pakistan relations, but were disappointed when Pakistani officials failed to make any significant moves before or during the meeting. 

The reopening of the supply route marks the first significant step toward repairing relations.

Officials on both sides said recently that the alliance was at an all-time low, a feeling that is reflected in the general Pakistani population. The most recent Pew Research Poll showed anti-Americanism at a new high in Pakistan, with 74 percent of Pakistanis polled saying they considered the U.S. to be an enemy. 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta welcomed Pakistan's decision to reopen the supply lines.

"As I have made clear, we remain committed to improving our partnership with Pakistan and to working closely together as our two nations confront common security challenges in the region," Panetta said.

NBC’s Fakhar Rehman in Islamabad, Mushtaq Yusufzai in Peshawar and Pakistan Bureau Chief Amna Nawaz contributed to this report.

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