The U.S. has withdrawn its supply route negotiators from Pakistan.
The U.S. is pulling its negotiating team from Pakistan, the Pentagon said Monday, in a sign that talks have faltered over reopening U.S. and allied supply lines to Afghanistan.
The development represents an abrupt turnabout in the course of the talks, which seemed last week to be gliding toward a resolution.
The U.S. negotiators are leaving in the wake of Pakistan’s refusal to allow a senior American defense official, Peter Lavoy, to meet with the country’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.
I’d only quibble with one part of this: the talks have been “gliding toward a resolution” for like three weeks now, at least since the NATO Summit in Chicago. So what does this mean? The U.S. has opened new “reverse” supply routes along the NDN in Central Asia. That means Pakistan doesn’t matter any more right? As I explain for PBS, not quite:
Finally, there’s cost and capacity. Gen. William Fraser, who commands the U.S. Transportation Command (which handles logistics for the military), told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February that the northern route simply does not have the capacity to handle the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Moreover, using the northern route costs up to six times as much as the normal southern routes through Pakistan.
Pakistan is, as ever, the key. Gen. Fraser thinks it is the key to withdrawing from Afghanistan. So does CENTCOM commander General James Mattis – and he also said as much to the Senate Armed Services Committee this year. Pakistan closed down NATO’s supply routes after a border skirmish between U.S. and Pakistani forces resulted in 24 dead Pakistani soldiers. The U.S. has refused to apologize for the incident, and Pakistan has refused to admit that Pakistani troops were firing on a U.S. base inside Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the closure of the routes is costing billions.
And etc. The northern routes are good if they can pressure Pakistan into conceding to international demands that they stop supporting international terrorism. But if Pakistan refuses… well then we’re all still pretty much in the same position as before.