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Originally published Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 8:39 PM

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Pakistan to reopen Afghanistan routes after U.S. apology

Pakistan agreed Tuesday to reopen supply routes to the U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan after the United States apologized for the first...

McClatchy Newspapers

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WASHINGTON — Pakistan agreed Tuesday to reopen supply routes to the U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan after the United States apologized for the first time for inadvertently killing 24 Pakistani troops who were manning two border posts last November.

The Obama administration also agreed to ask Congress to reimburse Pakistan $1 billion for the costs of operations against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, said a U.S. official, who requested anonymity.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the reopening of the supply routes from the Pakistani port of Karachi to the Afghan border in a statement in which she also disclosed that she had apologized by telephone to Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar for the mistaken killing of the Pakistani troops in a U.S. airstrike Nov. 26.

"I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives," Clinton said. "Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of the Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military."

Pakistan said the reopening of the routes showed it was "a responsible global partner in stabilizing the region."

Several Pakistani extremist groups vowed to block the move. Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a militant group on whose head Washington, D.C., has placed a $10 million bounty, said: "We will lay siege to Parliament. We won't allow the supply routes to reopen."

The developments came after months of negotiations between diplomatic and military officials in what was already a poisonous atmosphere after the arrest of a CIA contractor who fatally shot two Pakistanis, the launching of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden without Pakistan's permission and U.S. charges that some elements of Pakistan's security establishment are supporting the Afghan Taliban and their allies.

During the talks, Pakistan demanded that President Obama personally apologize for the deaths of its soldiers, sought a transit fee as high as $5,000 per container and requested as much as $2 billion in reimbursement for the costs of its counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. proposed a far lower fee and it refused to apologize, in part because a U.S. investigation had found the Pakistani military shared some responsibility for the inadvertent exchange of fire that led to the U.S. airstrike.

Moreover, the administration felt apologizing would open it up to Republican criticism after an Afghan extremist group that the U.S. has linked to Pakistan's most powerful spy agency staged high-profile attacks in Kabul and other Afghan cities, U.S. officials said.

In addition, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul was able to ship fuel, ammunition and other supplies by air and via routes that lead through Russia to northern Afghanistan, albeit at an estimated $100 million per month more than the costs of using the Pakistan routes.

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