Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded a halt to a series of cross-border rocket attacks in a meeting with Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, as the Pakistan Army claimed five “major attacks” were launched from Afghanistan.
The demand comes ahead of a meeting of senior officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US who will meet today (Tuesday) in Kabul to push the Afghan reconciliation process forward.
A statement issued by Karzai’s palace after the meeting said he “expressed concern over the continuation of rocket attacks on the Afghan border region from Pakistan soil and demanded an immediate halt to these attacks.”
The palace claimed that Kayani had agreed to launch an investigation, but that could not be immediately confirmed.
A few hours before the meeting, the Pakistan Army said that five “major attacks” launched from Afghanistan had killed 55 security personnel in a month.
Army spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas said on Monday that he could not rule out a “few accidental rounds” could have been fired across the border by security forces targeting fleeing militants but said Pakistan had also suffered, according to AFP news agency.
“In the last month, there have been five major attacks from the Afghan side of the border, where 250 to 300 terrorists crossed over and assaulted our border posts in Dir, Mohmand and Bajaur,” he said.
The attacks resulted in the deaths of 55 paramilitary and pro-government tribal militiamen and wounded 80 others, Abbas said.
Meanwhile, a tripartite commission, comprising senior military representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the coalition forces in Afghanistan held a meeting in Kabul on Tuesday. This is the 34th meeting of the commission, which was inaugurated in Islamabad in 2003.
According to an Inter-Services Public Relations press release, General Kayani, Chief of Afghan General Staff General Sher Muhammad Karimi and Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) General David Petraeus headed the respective delegations.
The participants reviewed the current security situation along the Pak-Afghan border and discussed measures to improve the effectiveness of the ongoing operations in their respective areas. Steps for better coordination and enhanced cooperation to avoid misunderstandings regarding border security were also discussed.
Meanwhile, discussions in the trilateral meeting are expected to be tense as Pakistan will raise its concerns over deliberate attempts by the US to keep Islamabad out of peace-making efforts with Afghan Taliban.
The three-way talks will be attended by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, US special envoy for the region Marc Grossman and the Afghan deputy foreign minister.
Ahead of the Kabul moot, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday to discuss bilateral relations and the meeting of the core group, according to the prime minister’s office.
Also, in a clear sign of growing tension, Associated Press news agency reported that Grossman told a news conference in Kabul on Monday that Pakistan must prove it wants an end to the Afghan war by preventing militants from hiding out on its soil and enabling those who launch attacks on the Afghan side of the border.
“We’ve been pretty clear that going forward here, we want the government of Pakistan to participate positively in the reconciliation process,” Grossman said. “Pakistan now has important choices to make.”
However, Pakistan continues to have serious reservations on the US’ efforts and a foreign office official said the issue will be taken up at the meeting of the Core Group.
With additional reporting by Kamran Yousaf in Islamabad
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2011.