ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s top security officials on Wednesday made an unannounced trip to Islamabad for talks with the Pakistani leadership on security cooperation amid the highly volatile security situation in their country.
Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua will, meanwhile, lead a delegation to Kabul on Saturday (Feb 3) for bilateral talks.
The visit by Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and head of spy agency National Directorate of Security Masoom Stanekzai was announced by the Foreign Office on Twitter after the arrival of the high-level delegation. They met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other civilian and military leaders.
“Afghan government had requested that a high-level delegation comprising Interior Minister and NDS chief would like to visit Pakistan … Delegation is here and will have talks today,” FO spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal tweeted.
With a wave of terror sweeping Afghanistan, Kabul’s spymaster and interior minister meet civilian and military leaders
The overall security situation in Afghanistan is said to be ‘highly volatile’ with conflict between the government and the Taliban continuing throughout most of the country. Three major attacks in Kabul over the past 10 days have brought additional focus on the worsening security situation there. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of not acting against terrorist sanctuaries on its soil — a charge strongly denied by Islamabad.
Bilateral mistrust has prevented the neighbours from improving their cooperation.
The high-ranking security delegation’s visit follows a trip by US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan to Kabul a day earlier in which he had prodded the Afghan leadership to engage with Pakistani leaders.
“We will continue our dialogue with Pakistan. We also encourage the government of Afghanistan to continue its bilateral discussions with Pakistan. Pakistan needs to be part of the solution,” Mr Sullivan had told reporters in Kabul after talks with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, according to VoA.
Afghan envoy Dr Omar Zakhilwal, however, says the visit took place in response to a message by Prime Minister Abbasi over the recent terrorist attacks in Kabul.
“Following recent horrific terrorist attacks in Kabul, PM Abassi conveyed a message to President Ghani to which it was responded to by high-powered personal delegation by the president to meet the PM today,” he said.
The visiting delegation had come with a ‘personal message’ from President Ghani. The FO spokesman said the agenda was discussion on prospects of “cooperation between the two countries”.
The talks mostly took place at the Prime Minister House. Neither side issued a statement on the discussions.
Dr Faisal says the visit of Foreign Secretary Janjua is not linked to the security delegation’s trip and had been scheduled long before.
The Foreign Office had a day earlier disclosed that 27 Haqqani network and Taliban fighters were handed over to Afghanistan in November last year.
Ambassador Zakhilwal expressed his surprise over the news. “This certainly is news to me! It would be a huge step forward in our important bilateral relations if this indeed happens,” he tweeted in response to the publication of the reports about handover of the fighters.
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2018