Pak route cut-off costs $100 mn a month: Panetta
Washington: The US is spending an extra USD 100 million a month to transfer supplies into Afghanistan because of Pakistan's closure of key transit routes into the war zone, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said.
Pakistan closed the NATO supply routes into Afghanistan after a US air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in November last year.
Pakistan has demanded an apology for the deaths, and even though the White House has offered condolences, it has resisted formally apologising, saying both US and Pakistani forces made mistakes, reports the Wall Street Journal.
After the closure of the routes, the Pentagon has expanded an alternative northern distribution network and stepped up air shipments into land-locked Afghanistan to ensure troops have the supplies they need, officials said.
But doing so has come at a price, which, until now, the Pentagon had declined to disclose.
Panetta didn't provide a breakdown of the total cost to US taxpayers of re-routing supplies into Afghanistan, but in testimony to the Congress, he estimated the added cost of Pakistan's border closure at about USD 100 million a month.
Defence officials said they wouldn't disclose dollar-figures because of concerns that Pakistan would use the information in negotiations in Islamabad to drive up the amount the US pays per container, stated the paper.
Officials on both sides had said the terms of a supply deal have largely been worked out. However, Pakistan's leaders are reluctant to finalise the deal without an US apology for the November incident.
Panetta said an apology was one of several issues still being discussed with Pakistan to try to resolve differences over the reopening of supply routes into Afghanistan.
"That alone isn't the only issue that's being discussed and that needs to be resolved to get the (supply routes) open," he said.