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Panetta Backs Conditions For Pakistani Aid


US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks with US troops during his recent visit to Kabul.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks with US troops during his recent visit to Kabul.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Washington should consider putting conditions on aid to Pakistan.

Speaking at a Senate budget hearing, Panetta said Washington should not end aid to Pakistan, but examine putting conditions on it. He didn't elaborate.

He said Pakistan's decision to close land routes to Afghanistan was costing the United States millions more to ship supplies to forces there.

"We've also had the closure of these ground lines, the so-called g-locks in Pakistan. And the result of that is that it is very expensive because we're using the northern transit route in order to be able to draw down our forces and also supply our forces. I think the amount is about $100 million a month because of the closure," Panetta explained.

Pakistan took the step after a NATO air attack last November accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

On June 11, the United States announced it was withdrawing its team of negotiators from Pakistan without securing a deal to reopen the routes.

One of the issues holding up an agreement is believed to be Pakistani insistence the United States apologize for the November strike, something the Pentagon has been unwilling to do.

But Panetta explained at the hearing that the apology wasn't the only issue.

"The United States has made clear that mistakes were made, and they were made on our side, they were also made on the Pakistani side. We expressed condolences for the mistakes that were made, we've made that clear. We have certainly continued to make clear the mistakes that were made. I think the problem is that at this point, they're asking not only for that [an apology], but there are other elements of the negotiation that are also involved," Panetta said.

The comments come less than a week after Panetta said during a trip to Kabul that the United States was reaching the limits of its patience with Pakistan because of the safe havens it offered to insurgents fighting in neighboring Afghanistan.

Based on AFP and Reuters reporting

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