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Opinion

Hillary Clinton and Pakistan: Fighting terrorists means sometimes having to say you're sorry

Trucks carrying NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) supplies

Trucks carrying NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) supplies resumed their routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan on Thursday, following Islamabad's agreement to end its seven-month blockade. AP video. (July 5)

The United States and Pakistan have issues. But like spouses in a volatile marriage, the two nations have found a way to stay together — for now.

That’s good news for the United States. No matter how exasperating the relationship has become, our fight against terrorists in the region make us better off together than apart.

Things went fell apart last November after two dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed in American air strikes.

Leaders of Pakistan’s civilian government demanded an official apology from President Barack Obama, in  part,  a reaction to domestic political opponents branding them weak.  To press the demand they closed critical routes through that country used to truck supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Obama refused to apologize — also in part due to domestic political pressure, in his case from Republicans who insist he’s been too willing to apologize for U. S. actions around the world.

The relationship was already in trouble. One flash point was the deaths of two Pakistanis shot in January 2011 by a CIA contractor. Then there was the galling discovery that Osama bin Laden was hiding in plain sight in Pakistan, and the May 2011 U.S. Navy Seal raid deep inside Pakistan  in which the famed terorrist was killed. It was an embarrassment to the Pakistani government, which was kept out of the loop.

So we’re unhappy with them and they’re unhappy with us. But we need access to their territory to effectively battle terrorists and they need the billions of dollars in mostly military aid we send them. Both nations needed a way to rehabilitate the relationship.

It came Monday when  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called her counterpart in Pakistan and said in a carefully crafted statement, “we are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military,” and allowed that both sides made mistakes that led to the fatal air-strikes.

She never uttered the word apology, that the Pakistanis wanted to hear. But Pakistan agreed to reopen the supply routes and back off its demand for $5,000 per truck carrying supplies to Afghanistan rather than the previous $250 per truck fee. In exchange the United States agreed to reimburse Pakistan $1.2 billion for its troops’ counter-insurgency operations along the border with Afghanistan.

Being allies means sometimes having to say you’re sorry.

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