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Jewish World Review
July 5, 2012/ 15 Tammuz, 5772
One word, 'sorry,' unplugs Pakistani roadblock
If one is to believe the diplomats, all it took was one word from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- "sorry" -- to persuade Pakistan to lift its seven-month blockade of trucks hauling NATO supplies to Afghanistan.
However, according to U.S. officials "sorry" is not the same as an apology, although the Pakistani government is treating it as such and the State department is not inclined to argue with that interpretation.
What prompted the blockade, in a nation still smarting over the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and seeming at-will drone strikes in its tribal territories, were U.S. airstrikes that went horribly wrong and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers inside Pakistan in November.
In a statement coordinated with Islamabad and described by one observer as "artfully worried," Clinton said, "We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again,"
One would certainly hope so, although it's still puzzling why it took more than seven months to get to this point. Apparently a variety of factors were in play.
Part of it was bad luck. Just as matters were progressing, in April the Taliban network, which operates with apparent impunity from within Pakistan, launched a series of coordinated attacks on Kabul.
Part of it was domestic politics. The White House is sensitive to Republican charges that President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton before him tend to go around the globe apologizing for the United States. If that's so, shame on both parties. In any event, Pakistan did not get the formal apology it had demanded.
All parties deny it, but there is the ever-present issue of money. The Pakistani government, which imposes a tax on each truck, was stunned at how fast NATO set up alternate routes through Central Asia, although at an extra cost of $100 million a month.
The U.S. did agree to try to persuade Congress to release $1.2 billion in pending military aid, although Pakistan said it was promised $3 billion.
After the non-apology apology was issued and accepted, both sides promised greater cooperation in counterterrorism. Meanwhile, the first trucks had begun rolling to Afghan border crossings.
The route is vital to NATO because in 2014 it will begin running in reverse as 90,000 American and 40,000 coalition troops and all their gear begin pulling out of Afghanistan.
Happy Fourth of July.
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