Supply line deal a 'positive step' in repairing US, Pakistani ties

The memorandum of understanding signed by all three parties during Tuesday's ceremony in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, marks "a first concrete, very positive step" toward rebuilding frayed relations between the United States and Pakistan, Deputy U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland said.

"It is clear to our political leadership in both capitals, whether it’s military or civilian, that we have a number of issues to work on," Hoagland told reporters in Pakistan after the signing.

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"But what this has done, I believe, has opened the doors so that once again we can sit down together and work through those various issues," he said. 

Paramount among those issues is the continued cooperation between the United States and Pakistan on counterterrorism in the region. 

CIA Director David Petraeus and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam, are set to meet later this week to discuss that ongoing campaign, particularly the use of armed U.S. drones in the country. 

The meeting will be Zaheer's first visit to the United States since American diplomats reached a deal with Islamabad to reopen the critical supply routes. 

Zaheer will reportedly request American military and intelligence forces end the armed drone strikes against suspected terror targets inside Pakistan during his sit down with Petraeus. 

Instead of U.S.-led drone strikes against suspected terror groups, such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, seeking refuge inside Pakistan's borders, Zaheer will request local forces be tasked with those counterterrorism operations, according to reports earlier this month. 

The new deal not only extends American access to supply routes in Pakistan, it also formalized the agreement forged by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reopen the routes to U.S. forces on July 5. 

As part of that deal, Clinton issued a rare apology for the errant air raid by U.S. and NATO warplanes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November. 

The incident occurred when American and NATO forces mistook Pakistani forces for insurgent fighters and opened fire. In retaliation, Islamabad closed off supply routes in Pakistan that have been used by coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

While the White House and the Pentagon have repeatedly expressed their regret for the air raid, no one from the Obama administration had formally or informally apologized for the attack until Clinton.