Cost issues on Pakistani supply routes resolved, says Levin

Senate Armed Services Committee chief Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Thursday that Pakistan has backed off its demands to significantly increase the per-truck cost to the United States and its allies to move supplies through the country. 


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"That demand is no longer there," Levin said, citing a source with knowledge of the ongoing talks between Washington and Islamabad on the issue. 

Pakistani officials were reportedly demanding U.S. and coalition forces pay as much as $5,000 per truck to move supplies and equipment in and out of Afghanistan. 

That demand was akin to "blackmail," according to Levin, and ended up scuttling talks in May between Washington and Islamabad to reopen the supply lines, which have been closed off to American and NATO forces since last November. 

Levin did not comment on when Pakistani officials decided to back off their pricing demands. It remains unclear whether Pakistan made the decision before or after a team of U.S. negotiators was pulled from the country on Monday. 

Pentagon spokesman Cdr. Bill Speaks declined to comment on Pakistan's specific pricing demands, but noted "most of the technical arrangements have been worked out" between the two sides. 

"There are still several issues outstanding [that] we believe all can be resolved and we remain ready to conclude this agreement as soon as Pakistan is ready," Speaks said. 

Islamabad prevented U.S. and coalition forces from moving troops and equipment through the country after a number of Pakistani soldiers were killed in an errant air strike by American forces.

And while Pakistan has backed off cost demands, it is still demanding a formal administration apology for the incident.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that the United States has already "expressed the condolences for the mistakes we have made" in Pakistan, both privately and publicly. 

There is still no guarantee Pakistan would reopen the supply lines, even with a formal apology from the White House in hand, he noted.

With the Pakistani lines closed, American military planners have been forced to use supply lines in Central Asia, known as the Northern Distribution Network. 

Transiting troops and equipment out of Afghanistan through Central Asia, compared to using the cheaper, more direct land routes through Pakistan, has cost the Pentagon "$100 million a month because of the closure of those [ground lines]," Panetta told Senate appropriators. 

--Story updated at 5:14pm to include comments by Pentagon spokesman Cdr. Bill Speaks 


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