NATO has invited the president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari to attend the defense alliance’s meeting in Chicago. The summit is to be held next on the 20th and 21st of May In Chicago. The unconditional invitation is being considered by the Pakistani government according to the Pakistani Television Network Geo TV.
The invitation comes in the wake of difficulties surrounding Nato resupply in Pakistan. That is an ongoing issue in the continuation of the war in Afghanistan which will be the main topic at the conference. The supply routes have remained closed in the wake of a Nato airstrike in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
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News appearing today however suggests that the government is to reopen the routes alleviating supply issues for the forces in the country. An announcement opening the routes is expected later today from Interior Ministry officials. According to Geo, tankers for oil resupply have already begun to move into Pakistan from Afghanistan.
Opposition leaders in the country are opposing the decision by the ruling party. PML-N, the largest opposition party, had their opinion espoused by leader Chaudry Nisar. He stated that his party would seek to coordinate with other opposition forces in a campaign to protest the move. Earlier this year a spokesman from the same party, Senate opposition leader Ishaq Dar, said the opening of routes would be good for Pakistan. Consistency from the party appears only to form in opposition to the government.
Pakistan’s opening of the supply routes shows the country’s willingness to support the war in Afghanistan even after punitive measures against the alliance. It is not clear if Nato offered concessions for the reopening of the routes or if that is what’s to be discussed at next week’s meeting. Pakistan’s support is vital to the Nato effort in the country. Any map will allow a picture of the alternative supply lines for Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan.
Though troops are touted to be leaving Afghanistan by 2014 at the latest a presence is expected in the country until at least 2024 according to Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. Karzai has said that deal is already made. In order to maintain those forces Pakistan’s cooperation is vital. The United States needs the supply lines that will be opened today to stay open if it expects to stay in the country for another decade.
Pakistan has reopened itself to Nato supply. And Nato is taking full advantage of that deal. Pakistan’s response, if there is an official one, at the conference next week will be an important barometer of the country’s outlook on another decade of military presence in the region.