Afghan Defence Minister Gen Bismillah Khan Muhammadi called on General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff at General Headquarters. — Photo by INP

ISLAMABAD: Putting aside years of mistrust, the Afghan government indicated on Monday its willingness to consider Pakistan’s longstanding offer of training its armed forces.

This sense was conveyed during Afghan defence delegation’s meeting with Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani at the military headquarters.

The Afghan delegation led by Defence Minister Gen Bismillah Khan Muhammadi, which is on a five-day visit to Pakistan, included Major General Afzal Aman, Director General of Military Operations; Major General Abdul Manan Farahi, Director General Military Intelligence and Investigation; Major General Payanda Mohammad Nazim, Inspector General of Training; and Major General Aminullah Karim, Commandant of National Defence College, Afghanistan.

The rare visit of the high-level Afghan defence delegation denoted a paradigm shift in Afghanistan’s perceptions about Pakistan.

Because of years of disinformation, Afghan authorities had always sceptically looked towards Pakistan believing that the former ally of Taliban was opposed to the current set-up and was backing Taliban insurgency.

It was this opinion that prevented Afghanistan from considering Pakistani offer to train its troops, which was originally made in 2010 by Gen Kayani. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had at a meeting with journalists last February dismissed the offer as a non-starter till Pakistan rebuilt confidence by addressing Kabul’s concerns about its involvement with Taliban terrorists.

The defence team’s visit, however, suggested that Afghans were finally convinced about the centrality of Pakistan in the reconciliation process.

“Both sides showed understanding for the fact that not only the geography, history and culture, but also the destiny of the two countries was shared. This makes it imperative for the two countries to move forward with a joint approach on important national and regional issues, and have a joint strategy on security issues affecting either of two countries, or both,” a military source said after the meeting at the General Headquarters, while referring to unanimity of views and the cordial atmosphere at the talks.

The Afghan delegation will visit the Combat Training Centre in Lehri (near Jhelum), School of Infantry and Tactics in Quetta, Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, and Staff College, Quetta, to inspect the training facilities.

At the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan last July Pakistan had committed $20 million assistance for Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The aid was largely to be spent on capacity building and technical assistance for the Afghan forces.

The two sides discussed cross-border attacks from Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces into Pakistan and agreed on better border coordination and control to prevent them in future.

Another important agreement was to make border control mechanism a bilateral affair instead of a trilateral one involving the US-led International Security Assistance Force.

While discussing peace and reconciliation efforts, Gen Kayani reiterated Pakistan’s desire for a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan, and Gen Mohammadi of complete support to bring normalcy in border regions to make conditions conducive for drawdown of Isaf forces in 2014. Pakistan as part of its commitment to aiding peace process in Afghanistan had released several senior Afghan Taliban figures.

Afghan defence minister thanked Pakistan for releasing the detained Taliban leaders and noted that move would play a positive role in the peace process.

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