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US sending commander to repair ties with Pakistan

08 February, 2012

LAHORE: A senior American military commander is expected to travel to Pakistan this month in what Obama administration officials say is the first step toward thawing a strategic relationship that has been in effect frozen for more than two months, reports The New York Times.

Gen James N Mattis, the head of the US military's Central Command, will meet Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to discuss the investigations of an exchange of fire at the Afghan border that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, as well as new border coordination procedures to prevent a recurrence of the episode.

General Mattis's visit, the first by a high-ranking American official since the cross-border confrontation in November, was to have begun on Thursday, but has been postponed by at least a week pending what is expected to be a spirited debate in parliament over a new security policy toward the United States.

Pakistani and American officials are quietly optimistic that both events will trigger a chain of public engagement and private negotiations that will reboot the two nations' frayed strategic relationship, although along more narrowly defined lines than before.

Pakistani officials say they will probably reopen NATO supply lines running through their territory, which have been closed for more than two months. The US State Department is supporting a proposal for the United States to issue a formal apology for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers in a US airstrike.

"We've felt an apology would be helpful in creating some space," said an American official who has been briefed on the State Department's view and who spoke on the condition of anonymity as internal discussions continued.

End.

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