Convoys had been blocked from Afghan war.
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Pakistan will allow NATO supply convoys to cross its territory into Afghanistan until the end of 2015, one year beyond the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat forces there, under an agreement signed Tuesday by U.S. and Pakistani officials.
The pact seems to close, for now, one of the most contentious chapters in the long-turbulent relationship between Washington and Islamabad, cementing cooperation by Pakistan in winding down the war in Afghanistan, at least in terms of logistical assistance. Washington has also urged Islamabad to step up its participation in the peace process by bringing to the negotiating table militant groups that shelter in Pakistani's tribal belt and regularly cross the border to attack NATO troops.
The so-called memorandum of understanding signed Tuesday also provides the option for both sides to extend the deal in one-year intervals beyond Dec. 31, 2015.
Although Pakistan ended its seven-month blockade of NATO supplies in early July, the pact formalizes some key details, including a ban on transporting lethal equipment. It also says that Pakistan will provide security for the thousands of container trucks and oil tankers whose routes originate at the port of Karachi.
Last week, after the war-provisioning convoys began rolling in significant numbers, Pakistan again shut down the routes when a trucker was fatally shot in an attack attributed to the Pakistani Taliban, which has vowed to kill anyone who drives for NATO.
Pakistani officials said Tuesday that the convoys would resume only after the routes -- which span hundreds of miles -- are suitably protected. Under the new arrangement, police in cities and towns would handle security until the convoys reach the restive tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where the nation's paramilitary Frontier Corps would take over.
The agreement formalizes the verbal agreements that the United States reached in the past with Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's most recent military ruler, who was forced into exile in 2008 after civilians took power.
The deal he struck in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was a quid pro quo: Pakistan would cooperate in the war against terrorism, including allowing the U.S. supply routes, in exchange for billions of dollars in aid.
The signed agreement is significant in that it appears to have been reached without overt involvement by Pakistan's military. U.S. officials have said Pakistani generals stood back to allow civilian leaders to negotiate the pact, which proved to be a slow, politicized and unwieldy process.
In Washington, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard from the two seasoned diplomats who are nominated to represent the U.S. in the tumultuous region: Richard G. Olson, tapped to be ambassador to Pakistan, and James B. Cunningham, the nominee to be the new ambassador to Afghanistan.
Both men said that one key to success would be to get Afghans and Pakistanis to trust that the U.S. and its allies would not abandon the region after 2014, when the last U.S. and NATO combat forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan.