WASHINGTON | U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Tuesday, Jul. 3, welcomed Pakistan’s decision to open ground lines of communication on the border with Afghanistan that have been closed since November.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the decision after a telephone call this morning with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
“As I have made clear,” Panetta said, “we remain committed to improving our partnership with Pakistan and to working closely together as our two nations confront common security challenges in the region.”
On the call with Khar, Clinton said, “I once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November. I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives.”
Clinton and Khar acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives, she added.
“We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military,” she added. “We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”
In reopening the ground lines of communication, Pakistan will not charge transit fees in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region, Clinton said.
“This is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region,” she said, adding that the move will help the United States and the International Security Assistance Force conduct the planned drawdown at a much lower cost.
“This is critically important to the men and women who are fighting terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan,” Clinton said.
Khar said no lethal equipment will transit Pakistan into Afghanistan unless it is meant to equip the Afghan national security force.
During the call, Khar and Clinton discussed the importance of taking coordinated action against terrorists who threaten Pakistan, the United States and the region, she said.
Clinton said she and Khar also discussed supporting Afghanistan’s security, stability and efforts towards reconciliation, and continuing to work together to advance the two nations’ many other shared interests, from increasing trade and investment to strengthening our people-to-people ties.
“Our countries should have a relationship that is enduring, strategic and carefully defined, and that enhances the security and prosperity of both our nations and the region,” the secretary said.
U.S. and Pakistani troops are in a fight against a common enemy, she said, and have enhanced counterterrorism cooperation against terrorists that threaten both countries, with the goal of defeating al-Qaida in the region.
As the call ended, Clinton said, “I reiterated our deep appreciation to the government and the people of Pakistan for their many sacrifices and their critical contribution to the ongoing fight against terrorism and extremism.”