Chicago: Zardari to return empty-handed

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May 21, 2012

CHICAGO: President Obama was struggling to balance the United States’ relationship with two crucial but difficult allies on Sunday, after a deal to reopen supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan fell apart just as Mr. Obama began talks on ending the NATO alliance’s combat role in the Afghan war.

May 21, 2012

CHICAGO: President Obama was struggling to balance the United States’ relationship with two crucial but difficult allies on Sunday, after a deal to reopen supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan fell apart just as Mr. Obama began talks on ending the NATO alliance’s combat role in the Afghan war.

As a two-day NATO summit meeting opened in Chicago, Mr. Obama remained at loggerheads with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, refusing even to meet with him without an agreement on the supply routes, which officials in both countries acknowledged would not be coming soon.

Mr. Zardari, who flew to Chicago with hopes of lifting his stature with a meeting with Mr. Obama, was preparing to leave empty-handed as the two countries continued to feel the repercussions of a fatal American airstrike last November, for which Mr. Obama has offered condolences but no apology. Mr. Zardari did, however, meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to discuss the supply routes, said a report published in the New York Times.

Pakistan closed the routes into Afghanistan after the strike, heightening tensions with Pakistani officials who say that the United States has repeatedly infringed on their sovereignty with drone strikes and other activities.

“This whole breakdown in the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has come down to a fixation of this apology issue,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser on Pakistan. The combination of no apology and no meeting, Mr. Nasr said, “will send a powerfully humiliating message back to Pakistan.”

American officials hope the summit of the 28-member alliance will set in motion an orderly conclusion of the decade-long war in Afghanistan, a huge undertaking. NATO aims to give Afghan forces the lead in combat operations next year to pave the way for the departure of NATO troops by the end of 2014. The NATO summit will also focus on financing Afghan forces for the next several years.

Mr. Obama and his other tenuous ally in the region, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, huddled together Sunday morning to grapple with stalled reconciliation talks with the Taliban.

It was a measure of just how bad things have gotten between the United States and Pakistan that, by contrast, Mr. Obama’s relationship with Mr. Karzai — which has been rocky ever since Mr. Obama came into office vowing to end what he viewed as former President George W. Bush’s coddling of the mercurial Afghan leader — looked calm and stable on Sunday.

“I want to express my appreciation for the hard work that President Karzai has done,” Mr. Obama said after the meeting, standing next to Mr. Karzai. “He recognizes the enormous sacrifices American troops have made.”

Mr. Obama quickly added: “We recognize the hardships that Afghans have been through during these many many years of war.”

Mr. Karzai, for his part, said he would work to make sure that Afghanistan is not a “burden on the shoulders of our friends” in the international community.

“For all the twists and turns in this relationship, we now very much want to get to very much the same place,” one Obama administration official said. He credited the strategic partnership agreement, which he says has given Mr. Karzai a level of reassurance that the United States and NATO will not abandon Afghanistan once combat troops leave the country. “The discussion today was very much about what do we have to do over the next two years to close out our piece of the war.”

On the Pakistani front, however, things seem to deteriorate.


Courtesy: thenews

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