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Why did Pakistan open Afghan supply lines? (+video)

Following a U.S. apology given by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pakistan opened supply lines to Afghanistan. Truck drivers in Karachi wer among those celebrating the news.

By Bradley Klapper and Rebecca SantanaAssociated Press / July 3, 2012

In this file photo, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the State Department in Washington. The Obama administration says Pakistan is reopening supply lines into Afghanistan after the U.S. issued an apology for the November killing of 24 Pakistani troops in a NATO airstrike.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File

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WASHINGTON

Ending a bitter seven-month standoff, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized to Pakistan on Tuesday for the killing of 24 of its troops last fall and won in return the reopening of critical NATO supply lines into Afghanistan. The agreement could save the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Pakistan has reopened its border to trucks that supply NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Resolution of the dispute also bandages a relationship with Pakistan that will be crucial in stabilizing the region. The ties have been torn in the past year and a half by everything from a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis to the unilateral U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound.

But the accord carries risks for both governments. It threatens to make Pakistan's already fragile civilian leadership look weak and subservient to the United States, while Republicans including presidential candidate Mitt Romney can argue that President Barack Obama says "sorry" too easily.

The first trucks carrying NATO goods should move across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on Wednesday, U.S. officials said. Around two dozen impatient truck drivers celebrated the news in a parking lot in the southern city of Karachi by singing, dancing and drumming on empty fuel cans.

"We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military," Clinton said, recounting a telephone conversation she had with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. "I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives."

"I am pleased that Foreign Minister Khar has informed me that the ground supply lines into Afghanistan are opening," Clinton added in her statement.

It marked the first time any U.S. official formally apologized for the deaths, a step hotly debated within the Obama administration and one demanded by Pakistan before it would reopen the supply routes. Pakistani lawmakers also wanted Washington to halt all air strikes in the country and stop shipping weapons and ammunition to Afghanistan through Pakistani airspace, demands the U.S. has ignored.

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