Voicing cautious optimism, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan said Tuesday that he's seeing some signs of a possible lifting of Pakistan's communications blackout imposed on the U.S.-led coalition after NATO airstrikes killed two dozen Pakistani forces last month.
Marine Gen. John Allen revealed for the first time that he spoke on the phone Monday with Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani _ their first conversation since the airstrikes _ and that they both expressed a commitment to work through the incident and try to restore coordination between their forces along the border.
"I do have a sense of progress," Allen told reporters at a news briefing at his Camp Eggers headquarters in Kabul, describing the phone call as businesslike and cordial. "The conversation was clearly about attempting to resolve the issue ... around the border incident, in the sense that, lets restore border coordination so that we can move on."
He added that he believes Pakistan will soon send its liaison officers, who were pulled after the Nov. 26 incident, back to the border coordination centers and/or NATO headquarters in Kabul. Allen said the two did not discuss when Pakistan would reopen its border crossings to NATO convoys transporting supplies for troops in Afghanistan.
Allen's comments came as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to talk with his commanders, including plans for an update on U.S. relations with Pakistan.