WASHINGTON - US Defence Secretary Leon E Panetta has said that some progress has been made in negotiations with Pakistan on reopening transport routes remaining closed since November for supplies bound for troops in Afghanistan. Panetta told a news conference in Chicago on Monday that it was a positive sign that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari attended the Nato summit. “We still have a way to go, but it is extremely important that ultimately we’re able to open up those lines of communication and transport so that we can expedite the assistance that needs to go to our men and women in uniform who are fighting the battle,” Panetta said. The US continues to negotiate with Pakistan towards a resolution that will lead to the reopening of Nato supply routes that have been closed since November, Panetta said.
US logistics specialists quickly shifted to other means to supply the forces, but the routes through Pakistan are considered the most direct and cost-effective.
At this stage, Panetta said, “I guess I would say that I feel a lot more positive about the effort to try to see if we can find a resolution to that challenge.”
Another continuing challenge associated with Pakistan and Afghanistan involves the Taliban.
Panetta admitted that “the biggest challenge is a Taliban that is resilient, that is going to continue to fight even though they’ve been weakened — and I think the levels of violence are down — and that they’re going to continue to conduct attacks.”
“We are still dealing with a resilient enemy that in many ways still has a safe haven in Pakistan. And that, I think, represents the greatest threat that we’re facing,” he said.
Coalition troops and Afghan National Security Forces will have to confront that enemy, he said, adding that he has every confidence that the Afghan Army can respond effectively and be part of that effort.