DAWN, July 6, 2012
Sherry, Donilon played key role in breaking the deadlock
NEW YORK, July 5: US officials have said that National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Ambassador Sherry Rehman played a key role in breaking the deadlock between Pakistan and United States by arguing for a compromise settlement acceptable to both sides.
In an article on the process, the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday that a signal was conveyed when Mr Donilon appeared at a backyard barbecue hosted by Ambassador Sherry Rehman at her residence.
The paper quoted US officials as saying that his attendance was seen by the Pakistanis as a clear signal that the White House wanted to resolve the dispute and get the relationship back on track.
Ms Rehman had been shuttling between the State Department and the White House asking them to reach a compromise to move forward, the WSJ article said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top aides consistently urged an apology for US mistakes in the name of improved relations, the WSJ said.
Officials also told the paper that the White House came to realise that there was no way that Islamabad, in an election year in Pakistan, could reopen the routes without an apology to calm the irate Pakistani public and the militaryâ€™s rank and file.
US officials said the apology by Mrs Clinton also helped get the Pakistanis to drop demands for huge mark-ups in Nato payments for each cargo container transiting Pakistani territory.
Officials said the word â€œsorryâ€ was the solution that was acceptable to the Pakistanis.
The White House balked at authorising Mrs Clinton to use the word â€œapologise.â€ US officials said some senior White House advisers were concerned such language could be used by Republicans to cast Mr Obama as an â€œapologiser-in-chief.â€
The officials said the final language was far less than what Pakistani officials initially sought. Mrs Clinton stopped short of taking responsibility for the deaths. The Pentagon says Pakistan was party to blame for the incident. Besides, WSJ said, a Pakistani politician speculated that the Zardari government needed financial support from the US to move forward.
The US is expected to transfer more than $1 billion in frozen military aid, a first instalment on arrears that Islamabad says Washington owes.
By Tuesday, the standoff over the border crossings had become a symbol of Washingtonâ€™s troubled relations with Pakistan, a country that since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks has become a sometimes difficult ally in the US war on terrorism.
More broadly, officials said they hoped the deal opening the border crossings would now clear the way for talks aimed at reaching a more sustainable joint approach to counter-terrorism.
US officials, the paper said, were concerned that Pakistani opposition would imperil a US campaign against Pakistan-based militants using armed Central Intelligence Agency-piloted drones.
In the past, the US and Pakistan shared intelligence and made lists of common militant targets, but that cooperation broke down over a series of controversial incidents beginning in early 2011.