The top US commander in Afghanistan held talks with Pakistan’s army chief on Saturday aimed at improving border coordination, almost six months after US airstrikes accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the frontier.
Islamabad retaliated for the deaths in November last year by closing its border crossings to supplies meant for NATO troops in Afghanistan. The border remains closed despite US pressure to reopen the route, which has long been one of the main ways to get goods and equipment to coalition forces in landlocked Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s parliament has demanded that Washington apologize for last year’s attack and stop drone strikes targeting militants in the country’s tribal region along the Afghan border. Although Pakistani lawmakers have not explicitly linked these issues to reopening the supply route, the matters have complicated the discussions.
The US has expressed its condolences for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers at two Afghan border posts, but has stopped short of a full apology, likely because of domestic political considerations.
US officials have made clear in private that they have no intention of stopping covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, and several attacks have occurred since parliament demanded they stop. The strikes are immensely unpopular in Pakistan because many people believe they mostly kill civilians, allegations disputed by the US and independent research.
Saturday’s talks between US General John Allen and Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani indicates some level of progress in the relationship.
The meeting, which the Pakistani army announced in a written statement, followed several other discussions between senior US and Pakistani officials in recent weeks.
A pair of high-level meetings are expected to take place in Pakistan this week to discuss reopening the NATO supply route. They include one by the Cabinet and another by the defense committee of the Cabinet.