WASHINGTON: The US State Department indicated on Friday that Pakistan might still attend a Nato summit in Chicago next week.
“I think the question of who is going to be invited is still something that we’re working on,” said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland when asked if Pakistan was invited to the summit. “The guest list is still something that we’re working on, particularly in the context of the Isaf meeting, which will have a larger participation.
At another briefing on Friday afternoon, Ms Nuland was asked would Pakistan get invited to the summit if they reopen Nato supply routes closed after the Nov 26 US raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Ms Nuland said when US Special Representative Marc Grossman was in Islamabad two weeks ago, he had “substantive conversations” with Pakistani officials on the opening of the land routes.
Ambassador Grossman, she said, had taken with him a team of US experts to work with Pakistani experts. “That team is still in Pakistan. They’re continuing to work together on this issue,” she added.
Ms Nuland noted that Nato Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen “spoke pretty clearly with regard to where Nato is on this set of issues”, reminding Pakistanis that the supply routes were still blocked.
When a reporter asked her at an earlier briefing if she expected Pakistani leaders to attend the Chicago summit, the US official said: “I think I said that we haven’t yet issued all of the invitations.”
At a congressional hearing, Senator John Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has in the past helped resolve differences between the United States and Pakistan, also emphasised the importance of reopening the supply routes.Senator Kerry, who is
considered a Pakistan sympathiser on Capitol Hill, also reminded Pakistanis that they needed to eliminate terrorist safe havens in Fata.
“It is simply unacceptable to have a zone of immunity for acts of war against armed forces and against the collective community that has tried to accomplish what it has tried to accomplish,” he said.
“That means Pakistan has to become more assertive and more cooperative, and we may have to resort to other kinds of self-help, depending on what they decide to do” about the supply routes.
Another top US senator, Claire McCaskill, told a hearing that the alternate route the Americans were using to supply their troops in Afghanistan were costing them additional $38 million a month.
She noted that a sudden rise in fuel prices would cost the Pentagon additional $1.3 billion this year and this situation had been “exacerbated by the continued closure of the Pakistan border”.
The Northern Distribution Network is a series of commercially-based logistical arrangements connecting Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.
At a hearing on current readiness of US troops, Gen Philip Breedlove, Vice Chief of the Air Force, also cautioned that the US Department of Defence might have to face additional financial burden if Pakistan did not reopen the routes.
“If we do not get movement in the Pakistan ground communication lines — much of the job of bringing home all of the equipment that the Marines and the Army need will fall to the backs of the Air Force to haul out. And so there’ll be a considerable amount of time as we effect
this retrograde…,” he said.
“So our start time could be significantly different than what you heard from my compatriots, and it will take us some period of time, between a year and a year-and-a-half after that, to get through the training cycles and things we need,” he said.
“It is relevant, obviously, to the drawdown as we pull equipment and men and women out of Afghanistan,” Senator McCaskill noted.