So NATO is fixed on pulling its combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. However the cost and ease of the withdrawal depend on a third player – Pakistan.
The snag is that Pakistan is embroiled in a row that has left thousands of vehicles used to supply NATO troops in Afghanistan stuck on the wrong side of the border.
Drivers have been waiting for orders in Karachi since Pakistan closed its supply lines for the allied war effort.
It took the measure amid anger over a US drone strike in November that killed 24 of its soldiers.
Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson of the NATO-led ISAF force, stressed the importance of Pakistani road ties.
“The routes to the port of Karachi are the shortest routes to a harbour and therefore of course they are routes that make logistics and redeployment easier, easier and possibly cheaper, so therefore of course we have an interest in looking at these roads,” he said.
Pakistan’s demands include a public apology for the killings and a review of US strategy on drone strikes aimed at militants on its territory.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani confirmed that negotiations were underway.
“Pakistan is part of the solution…. not part of the problem for Afghanistan,” he said.
Amid speculation that an end to the dispute may be in sight, some US media reports suggest big money is also in the balance. They claim Pakistan wants NATO to pay the equivalent of 4,000 euros for every vehicle allowed to cross the border into Afghanistan, should the blockade be lifted.