Pakistani border officials says NATO trucks began crossing into Afghanistan on Thursday under a major US-Pakistani supply route deal. This follows a US apology for last November's fatal air raid on Pakistan troops.
Three trucks carrying mineral water crossed into landlocked Afghanistan from Chaman in Pakistan's Baluchistan province as part of a deal reached on Tuesday between Washington and Islamabad.
It reactivates a key logistics and exit route, via Pakistan's port city of Karachi, as NATO nations prepare to withdraw their troops and equipment from Afghanistan by 2014.
Since November, when the US air raid killed 24 Pakistani border troops, NATO had had to rely on its northern route into Central Asia, Russia and the Caucasus, said by the Pentagon to cost nearly three times as much. In northern Afghanistan, German NATO troops are stationed along that route.
Mineral water bound for Kabul
Border officials at Chaman said the departure of the trucks on Thursday had been delayed since Tuesday because of paperwork.
One of the drivers, Javed Iqbal, said the load would first go to Peshawar inside Afghanistan before being transferred to trailers bound for Kabul.
Still unclear is the status Pakistan's Torkham crossing, further north in the Khyber Pass region. The Taliban and other militants have threatened to renew attacks which left hundreds of trucks ablaze or wrecked before the blockade.
Backlog at Karachi's port
Waiting at Karachi's port are thousands of trucks, tankers and containers. Port Qasim chairman, Mohammed Shafi, said customs clearance would take time.
"Once we do that, we will be able to let the supplies leave for Afghanistan," he said.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar that the United States was sorry for the deaths of the 24 Pakistanis in November.
For months the administration of US President Barrack Obama had rejected Pakistani demands for an apology for what NATO had called a regrettable incident.
As part of Tuesday's deal, Washington is to release about $1.1 billion (814 million euro) to the Pakistani military to reimburse Pakistan for counter-insurgency operations.
Islamabadhas long been an official US military ally, but has faced anti-US sentiment among its own population over drone air raids and the targeting of prominent militants. Insurgents use Pakistan's northwest as a haven for incursions into Afghanistan.
ipj/mz (AFP; Reuters, AP, dpa)
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