Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said talks with Pakistan about re-opening critical land supply lines into Afghanistan are progressing. “We still have a way to go, but I think the good news is that we are negotiating and that we are making some progress,” said Panetta during a press conference May 21 in Chicago on the margin of NATO’s summit. He added, “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.” Pakistan closed the transport routes in late November after a cross-border incident with NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistani leaders also have repeatedly lodged complaints against suspected US air strikes in Pakistan using remotely piloted aircraft. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Toolan, former commander of Afghanistan’s Regional Command-Southwest, told reporters in late April that it would be difficult to meet the 2014 deadline to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan unless the land supply routes reopen. The closures have meant moving more materiel by air, increasing the Air Force’s fuel expenditures. (AFPS report by Cheryl Pellerin)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.