The United States is pulling a team of negotiators from Pakistan and they will be leaving without securing a deal to reopen an important military supply line into Afghanistan.
"'I believe that some of the team left over the weekend and the remainder of the team will leave shortly,' George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. 'This was a U.S. decision.'"
If you remember, Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan to NATO forces after an American airstrike killed 24 Pakistani troops in November. The talks have been ongoing, and just late last month when NATO leaders met in Chicago, rumors of a deal swirled.
But last week, Panetta issued scathing comments on Pakistan, saying the U.S. was "reaching the limits of our patience" with the country.
As NPR's Julie McCarthy told Weekend Edition, the relationship between the two countries has been on "an accelerating downward spiral."
Julie told Rachel Martin:
"The harsh language you mentioned coming from Washington is really kind of proof of that. The Obama administration took office with a generous outstretched hand to Pakistan. The U.S. offered big aid packages to strengthen the civilian government and to turn back the tide of this anti-American sentiment that so pervasive here.
"And, Rachel, the most recent one is this furor over the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden. Many Pakistanis think he's a traitor. Capitol Hill calls him a hero and vows to cut off aid over his jailing. So aid is openly trumpeted as a means to punish Pakistan, and is losing its friend in Washington."
"The decision was reached to bring the team home for a short period of time," the BBC quotes Little as saying.