Pakistan offers plan to reopen supply lines to American forces

U.S.-Pakistan relations took a leap forward on Friday, when Islamabad agreed to a plan to reopen vital supply routes to American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. 

The plan bars any private security contractors from working inside Pakistan and bans the United States from carrying out "overt or covert operations" within the country's borders, according to news reports.

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That ban on U.S. operations in Pakistan will likely includes airstrikes by CIA-operated unmanned aircraft. 

If the Obama administration agrees to meet those demands, the United States will be allowed to ship non-lethal equipment and supplies to American and NATO troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan. 

The agreement comes after nearly a month of negotiations within Pakistani parliament over the terms of the deal. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani assured lawmakers on Friday that Islamabad would enforce the terms of the deal "in letter and spirit." 

The supply routes have been closed to American forces since last November, when U.S. warplanes accidentally attacked a Pakistani border outpost, killing 24 soldiers. 

As a result, Pakistan also cut off all military and intelligence ties with the United States. 

Friday's deal is just the latest sign that ties between Washington and Islamabad are warming back up. Gen. James Mattis, head of Central Command, met with Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Pakistan last month, as the debate over reopening the supply routes was taking place. 

However, losing the ability to hit high-level terrorist targets in Pakistan via unmanned airstrikes could be a tough pill for American military leaders to swallow. The strikes have become an integral part in the White House's campaign against international terror groups including al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The number of clandestine airstrikes has surged under the Obama administration, taking out suspected terror targets in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. 

Politically, congressional lawmakers also have praised the use of unmanned drones by the military and the intelligence community. 

Defense spending on autonomous aircraft has surged on Capitol Hill, making the aircraft one of the few bright spots in an increasingly dismal defense budget forecast.