Pakistan, Afghanistan deepening military ties

Published January 20, 2015
Flags of Afghanistan (L) and Pakistan (R) are seen in this image. — AFP/file
Flags of Afghanistan (L) and Pakistan (R) are seen in this image. — AFP/file

ISLAMABAD: In a move towards improving border coordination and deepening military-to-military ties, Pakistan and Afghanistan over the weekend opened a series of meetings of commanders.

Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Hidayat ur Rehman travelled to Afghanistan on Sunday for the first meeting. Commander of Southern Command Lt General Nasir Khan Janjua would visit Afghanistan for another meeting on Wednesday.

Military’s public affairs division ISPR in a statement on Lt Gen Rehman’s meeting in Afghanistan said: “Matters related to border security came under discussion. During the meeting ways and means were also discussed to further enhance the existing border coordination mechanism.”

Gen Rehman during the visit met the military commander of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangrahar province that borders Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The meeting was also attended by representatives of Afghan Border Police and International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

The decision regarding meetings of commanders was taken during the last trilateral meeting on Dec 23 in Islamabad between Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, ANA Chief General Sher Muhammad Karimi and Isaf Commander General John Campbell.

The two sides have been working on a border coordination mechanism to replace the existing procedure involving Isaf.

Two border coordination points in Torkham and Spin Boldak have been reactivated.

Unauthorised cross-border movement remained a sore point in the Pak-Afghan relationship during the Karzai government with both sides accusing each other of not doing enough to regulate the porous border.

The new mechanism envisages better coordination between troops in bordering areas and protocols for improving border control.

The two countries have in the past tried regulating the border by setting up designated border crossing points; installing biometric screening system at crossing points and other similar steps. There have also been proposals for fencing of the border, but mutual mistrust has prevented progress.

This time round discussions about the new border coordination mechanism have coincided with improvement in military to military ties.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to GHQ during his visit to Islamabad in November signalled warming of defence relationship.

Active cooperation between the two sides was seen in the aftermath of the Dec 16 massacre of 149 schoolchildren and staff members by Taliban in an attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.

Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif accompanied by ISI Chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar had travelled to Kabul immediately after the attack seeking action against Afghanistan-based Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leaders. The ISI chief paid a second visit almost a week ago.

Reports suggest that Afghanistan has arrested five Taliban suspects of the Peshawar school attack.

The next planned meeting is between Commander of Southern Command Lt Gen Janjua and Commander of Southwestern Kandahar province on Wednesday in Afghanistan.

“These visits are aimed to enhance ongoing military-to-military relationship between the two countries,” the ISPR said.

Published in Dawn January 20th , 2015

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