US suspends NATO supply talks with Pakistan
Frustrated over lack of progress over talks with Pakistan to reopen critical supply routes into Afghanistan to US and NATO forces, the United States has called back American negotiators from Islamabad.
Several members of the US negotiation team had already left Islamabad, with the remaining members scheduled to depart the country within days, Defense Department spokesman George Little told reporters Monday.
The team had been in Pakistan for the last six weeks, attempting to hammer out a deal to reopen the supply lines that had been closed to American and NATO forces since last November when a botched US air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
The team's withdrawal was a "US decision", according to Little, who added that getting the supply lines reopened remained a top priority for the Pentagon and the White House.
Military officials at the American embassy in Pakistan will continue informal talks on the issue with their counterparts in Islamabad, he said.
The Pentagon spokesman also did not rule out the chance that negotiators could return to Pakistan at a later date.
The negotiators' departure comes less than a week after NATO announced plans to begin using alternate supply routes in Central Asia to support its forces in Afghanistan.
American and Pakistani negotiators were reportedly close to a deal weeks before NATO's annual summit in Chicago in May, but an eleventh-hour demand by Islamabad to increase the price-per-truck cost to move supplies through Pakistan brought negotiations to a grinding halt.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta further inflamed tensions between Washington and Islamabad last Thursday when he chastised Pakistan for providing terror groups such as Al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network safe haven inside the country.
"We are reaching the limits of our patience here," he said during a joint press conference with Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak in Kabul.