US/Pakistan Talks Fail as Obama Refuses to Apologize for Attack

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Common Dreams

US/Pakistan Talks Fail as Obama Refuses to Apologize for Attack

by
Common Dreams staff

In the early morning of Saturday, November 26, 2011 two US Apache helicopters, an AC-130 gunship, and a number of fighter jets launched a sustained and deadly attack on two Pakistani army border posts near Salala, on the Afghan-Pakistan border. The American airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The New York Times is reporting today that high-level talks designed to end a diplomatic deadlock between the U.S. and Pakistan ended in failure Friday night because the Obama administration is refusing to apologize for US attacks last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Because the U.S. has refused to apologize for the attack, Pakistan has retaliated by cutting off NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. In return, the U.S. is withholding as much as $3 billion of promised military aid.

The DAWN newspaper of Pakistan reports that instead of apologizing, the Americans want Pakistan to settle for invitation to the Chicago NATO Summit in return for the reopening of ground supply routes.

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The New York Times reports:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The first concentrated high-level talks aimed at breaking a five-month diplomatic deadlock between the United States and Pakistan ended in failure on Friday over Pakistani demands for an unconditional apology from the Obama administration for an airstrike. The White House, angered by the recent spectacular Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, refuses to apologize.

The Obama administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, left the Pakistani capital Friday night with no agreement after two days of discussions aimed at patching up the damage caused by the American airstrikes last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghanistan border. [...]

The negotiations are complicated by a complex web of interlocking demands from both sides. Without the apology, Pakistani officials say they cannot reopen NATO supply routes into Afghanistan that have been closed since November.

The Americans, in turn, are withholding between $1.18 billion and $3 billion of promised military aid — the exact figure depending on which side is speaking.

The continuing deadlock does not bode well for Pakistan’s attendance at a NATO meeting in Chicago in three weeks, assuming it is even invited. The administration has been eager to cast the event as a regional security summit meeting, and Pakistan’s absence would be embarrassing.

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DAWN of Pakistan reports:

[...] Instead of apologizing, the Americans want Pakistan to settle for invitation to (NATO) Chicago Summit in return for the reopening of ground supply routes.

"The US has also reneged on its commitment to apologize for the Salala incident. The US, officials said, had communicated to Pakistan during the London meeting between Secretary of States Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar that both civilian and military leadership would apologize."Other officials engaged in dialogue with the US for rebooting ties also said that the US reluctance to apologize had stymied the normalization process and the first round of talks in Islamabad ended without making any headway.

The Nov 26 attack on the Salala post threw Pakistan-US ties, which had already been weighed down by the challenging events of 2011, into a tailspin and Pakistan reacted by ordering revision of terms of engagement with Washington, suspending NATO supply routes and evicting the Americans from the Shamsi airbase.

On completion of a protracted review process, parliament sought apology and punishment for those responsible for the deadly strike in addition to other demands, including cessation of drone attacks and cutting down American footprint in Pakistan.

The US has already refused to negotiate on drone strikes, leaving Pakistan to push for alternatives that could at least satisfy its sovereignty concerns.

President Zardari made mention of this during his meeting and said: “Drone attacks are highly counter-productive in the war against militants … both sides should consider setting up a framework of mechanism to find mutually acceptable alternatives.”

The US has also reneged on its commitment to apologize for the Salala incident. The US, officials said, had communicated to Pakistan during the London meeting between Secretary of States Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar that both civilian and military leadership would apologize. Gen Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was to apologize on behalf of the military and Secretary Clinton on behalf of the political leadership.

But that couldn’t happen for a variety of reasons, chiefly President Barack Obama’s domestic political compulsions.

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