ISLAMABAD: Military’s top brass on Tuesday raised alarm over the deteriorating situation in border areas of Afghanistan where terrorist outfits have been gaining strength and urged Kabul to prevent its soil from being used against Pakistan.

The situation along the Pak-Afghan border was extensively discussed at the 241st Corps Commanders’ Conference at the General Headquarters, which was presided over by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“The participants took comprehensive review of the global, regional and domestic security environment with particular focus on situation along borders, especially LoC / Working Boundary and Pak-Afghan Border,” said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

“Forum was apprised of evolving operational imperatives and corresponding strategy to meet upcoming challenges. The COAS expressed satisfaction over Army’s operational readiness in view of the emerging security threats,” it said.

Commanders expect Afghan govt to deny any space to spoilers of peace, says ISPR; Gen Bajwa and US Secretary Austin emphasise ‘shared interest in security and stability in the region’

The evolving situation in Afghanistan has been of great concern for Pakistan, especially the further weakening of the already very weak writ of Kabul over the border areas where the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has sanctuaries.

TTP fighters have over the past few weeks conducted multiple attacks on Pakistani border posts. It is believed that besides the increased operational space now enjoyed by the Taliban, backing by the elements hostile to Pakistan has allowed TTP factions to regroup and rearm.

The issue was discussed threadbare at a meeting at the ISI headquarters on Monday, which was attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan, key federal ministers and services chiefs. National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf also discussed the developing situation with his American counterpart Jake Sullivan in Geneva over the weekend.

“Taking serious note of the recent cross-border firing incidents from Afghanistan and regrouping of terrorist leadership / outfits across, the forum expressed the hope that Afghanistan soil will not be used against Pakistan,” the ISPR said.

“In light of emerging regional security situation, Pakistan has taken effective border control/management measures and the same is expected from Afghanistan to deny any space to spoilers of peace, the forum reiterated,” it warned.

In view of the situation, the corps commanders took stock of the progress of development in the newly-merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which earlier formed tribal areas, and noted that much more needed to be done urgently so that the TTP elements did not get an opportunity to exploit local grievances.

“Forum also especially reviewed situation in the newly-merged districts of KP and Balochistan and stressed upon fast-paced socio-economic development of these areas to capitalise on the hard-earned peace to bring an enduring stability,” the ISPR said.

Major worry for Pakistan

The deadlocked peace process in Afghanistan is also a major worry for Pakistan. Government strategists are already looking at the possible scenario of US troops withdrawing by Sept 11 without a political settlement in place.

“While reviewing recent developments in the Afghan peace process and its attendant effects on the security situation, especially along Pak-Afghan border, the forum reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for regional peace and stability,” the ISPR said.

Violence in Afghanistan has been very high since the US signed a peace agreement with the Taliban. As the situation is highly uncertain in Afghanistan and is gradually worsening, Pakistan may have to bear the fallout in case of a civil war. Therefore, Islamabad has stepped up efforts for peace and reconciliation.

Meetings between the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators have resumed, but they have made little headway so far. There are reports that Pakistan is planning to host a peace conference.

Gens Bajwa, Austin discuss situation Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday discussed the increasingly uncertain situation in Afghanistan.

“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke by phone with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss shared regional interests and objectives,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

The conversation took place a day after the National Security Advisers of the two countries held a meeting in Geneva. The NSAs’ meeting also focused on the situation in Afghanistan, although it had a bilateral element as well.

Uncertainty in Afghanistan has intensified after President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out troops by Sept 11. The announcement was greeted by the Taliban with increased battlefield attacks, which Americans suspect to be the unannounced Spring Offensive by the insurgents.

The attacks have drawn a strong response from the Afghan security forces. This month alone several hundred combatants from both sides have been killed, in addition to heavy civilian casualty, suggesting that the situation is aggravating fast.

Gen Bajwa and Secretary Austin, during their conversation, emphasised “shared interest in security and stability in the region”.

“During the call, Secretary Austin reiterated his appreciation for Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan Peace Negotiations and expressed his desire to continue to build on the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship,” the Pentagon statement said.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2021



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