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Kayani, Isaf chief want improved coordination

April 02, 2013

ISLAMABAD, April 1: The latest Pak-Afghan cross-border shelling incidents and continuing Taliban infiltration dominated the meeting between the chiefs of Pakistan Army and the international forces in Afghanistan on Monday as the two commanders’ explored ways to strengthen their border coordination mechanisms.

“He (Gen Kayani) urged Isaf to help Pakistan check cross-border attacks launched from inside Afghanistan,” a military spokesman said after a meeting between Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the new commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Gen Joseph Dunford.

This was the first official interaction between Gen Kayani and Gen Dunford, who assumed the command of international forces in Afghanistan in February. The two commanders met for pushing forward efforts by the Pak-Afghanistan-Isaf tripartite commission for intensifying military-to-military cooperation between the three sides.

“During the session today, the two military leaders discussed a variety of issues related to strengthening cooperation and pressuring militants who threaten security along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border,” the spokesman said.

The meeting took place at a time when heightened tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan were threatening to unravel the progress made so far in improving the relationship, which has historically been an uneasy one.

The coming 18-24 months would be particularly crucial because of political and security transition in Afghanistan. Kabul has already started assuming the security role, with Afghan National Army troops carrying out the first independent operation against the Taliban in Badakhshan.

The recent cross-border shelling worsened a diplomatic row between Islamabad and Kabul over the reconciliation process.

Last Friday, Pakistan accused Afghanistan of firing artillery shells into its territory. Afghanistan had also accused Pakistan of firing 50 missiles into Kunar province recently.

Cross-border shelling remained a major issue in the bilateral relationship last year, but military-to-military contacts between Pakistan Army and Afghan National Army in the later part of last year helped to stop them. But with deteriorating political ties between the two countries, artillery exchanges have also resumed.

Securing the porous border which militants cross with ease is another major challenge for Gen Dunford.

“Certainly not satisfied with where we are on the border right now…but I’m probably no more satisfied than my predecessors, that we’ve satisfactorily addressed the challenge of Pakistan,” Gen Dunford said in a media interview before visiting Pakistan while speaking about infiltration by the Taliban.

The two generals also discussed the reconciliation process. The situation, when Gen Kayani and Gen Dunford met at GHQ on Monday, had changed significantly as compared to when Gen Kayani met Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman last week.

The US has since then successfully persuaded President Hamid Karzai to soften his position on the Taliban and dialogue with them.

Gen Kayani in his meeting with Secretary Kerry in Amman, had asked for US help in persuading Mr Karzai to further the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

President Karzai has now not only agreed to the Qatar process, but has also spoken positively about the Taliban, saying they have never been a “preventative element” in Afghanistan’s economic progress.

“General Kayani reiterated Pakistan’s stance and desire for peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan and the need for a successful Afghan-owned-Afghan-led peace process. He emphasised the need to continue supporting all efforts to bring peace in the Pak-Afghan border region,” the ISPR said.