WASHINGTON: The Pentagon has notified Congress this month that it would reimburse Pakistan nearly $700 million for the cost of stationing 140,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The $688 million payment, the first since this summer, covering food, ammunition and other expenses from June through November 2011 was sent to Capitol Hill on Dec. 7, according to the paper.
The reimbursements had been held up until now due to disputes over several incidents last year that hurt the bilateral relations.
American and Pakistani officials say, Congressional reaction to Pentagon's notification with no opposition to the move, underscores how relations between the two countries have been gradually thawing since Pakistan reopened the Nato supply routes in July after an apology from the Obama administration for an American airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011.
The US-Pakistan relationship was rocked in the past two years by a CIA contractor's shooting of two Pakistanis, the Navy SEAL raid that killed Bin Laden and the November 26, 2011 airstrike on Salala posts along the Afghan border.
A senior American official dealing with Pakistan said recently that “this is the longest we've gone in a while without a crisis.” Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, said, “Pakistan-United States relations are settling down to a more stable trajectory.”
The improvement in relations has allowed the United States to reduce the huge backlog of Nato supplies at the border, down to about 3,000 containers from 7,000 when the border crossings reopened, and to conduct dry runs for the tons of equipment that will flow out of Afghanistan.
Moreover, the two sides have resumed a series of high-level meetings, capped by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's meeting this month with top Pakistani officials in Brussels, on a range of topics including counter-terrorism, economic cooperation, energy and nuclear security.
The New York Times notes in the report that the biggest proponent of putting foreign aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan on a steady footing is the man President Barack Obama is leaning toward naming as secretary of state: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has frequently served as an envoy to Pakistan, including after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and was a co-author of a law that authorised five years and about $7.5 billion of non-military assistance to Pakistan.
The paper says Kerry's nomination would be welcomed in Pakistan, where he is seen as perhaps the most sympathetic to Pakistani concerns of any senior lawmaker and has nurtured relationships with top Pakistani leaders.