Afghan, Pakistani officials hold talks after deadly Kabul attacks

Afghan, Pakistani officials hold talks after deadly Kabul attacks
Afghan security personnel investigate at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul. (REUTERS)
Updated 31 January 2018

Afghan, Pakistani officials hold talks after deadly Kabul attacks

Afghan, Pakistani officials hold talks after deadly Kabul attacks

ISLAMABAD: Senior Afghan officials on Wednesday held talks with Pakistani civil and military leaders after a series of deadly attacks in Kabul that killed nearly 125 people and injured more than 250, Afghan diplomats said.
Afghan authorities blamed the Haqqani network for the deadliest attack in Kabul on Jan. 27, which killed 103 people.
On Jan. 20, Taliban militants stormed the capital’s Hotel Intercontinental and killed 22 people, including 14 foreigners.
Afghan officials say the Taliban and the Haqqani network operate from Pakistan, which denies the charge.
Afghan officials had earlier said Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak and intelligence chief Masoom Stanekzai would share evidence with Pakistani officials about the Kabul attacks.
Afghan Deputy Ambassador Zardasht Shams said his country’s delegation had a detailed meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, its intelligence chief and other senior military and intelligence officials also attended.
“The basic objective of the meeting was to discuss the recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, which were publicly claimed by the Taliban,” Shams told Arab News.
“The Afghan side shared the necessary information about the attacks, and demanded that immediate measures be taken,” he added.
“Pakistan’s prime minister condemned the attacks, and promised that his country will take necessary action on the basis of the intelligence.”
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Faisal tweeted that the Afghan government had requested that a high-level delegation visit Pakistan to discuss bilateral cooperation.
Earlier, Javed Faisal, spokesman for Afghan Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, said his country’s intelligence chief and interior minister went to Pakistan on Wednesday to “ask the military leadership to hand over Pakistan-based terrorists involved in the recent attacks in Kabul.” He tweeted: “We will also hand over docs and proofs to Pakistan’s military establishment.”
Afghan officials held talks in Islamabad hours after Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Islamabad had handed over 27 members of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.
He tweeted on Tuesday that the Afghan militants were handed over in November, but did not disclose their names.
Afghan officials expressed surprised at Pakistan’s claim that it handed over the militants. “This certainly is news to me!” tweeted the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Dr. Omar Zakhilwal. “It would be a huge step forward in our important bilateral relations if this indeed happens.”
Foreign affairs experts in Pakistan say dialogue is the best option for Pakistan and Afghanistan to address each other’s concerns.
“It’s unfortunate that when relations are tense, Afghanistan and Pakistan blame each other,” former Pakistani Ambassador Ayaz Wazir told Arab News. “Such a blame game deepens mistrust and affects cooperation.”
Rahimullah Yousafzai, senior Afghan affairs expert and resident editor of The News in Peshawar, told Arab News: “The increase in Taliban attacks could be a response to (American President Donald) Trump’s new Afghan strategy, under which the US has increased airstrikes against the Taliban and deployed more troops.”
Yousafzai added: “Trump stated in August that the US will weaken and defeat the Taliban to force them to come to the negotiating table, so the US has stepped up airstrikes and resorted to target killings. I think now the Taliban are carrying out revenge attacks.”
Former Afghan Defense Minister Shahnawz Tanai told Arab News that it is difficult to stop the Taliban’s “guerrilla-style attacks.”
He said the Taliban want to show that they are continuing their war despite the presence of foreign and Afghan national security forces, and that “they can carry out attacks anytime they want to harm the government.”
Tanai added: “Such attacks will definitely have an impact on the morale of the government and the people.”