ISLAMABAD: The new administration in Kabul has assured Pakistan that it will take action against alleged sanctuaries of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliates on the Afghan soil in a significant move which suggests increased anti-terror cooperation between the two neighbours.
The assurance came from President Ashraf Ghani during his talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif in his just-concluded maiden trip to Islamabad, officials familiar with the development told The Express Tribune.
A security official while speaking on condition of anonymity said there was a visible shift in Afghanistan’s approach since the new government took over in September this year. “We have had very frank and candid discussions with the Afghan president and he agreed that terrorist sanctuaries will be dismantled on the Afghan side of the border,” he disclosed.
The commitment was given after Ghani was briefed ‘with evidence’ that Pakistan’s ongoing operation in North Waziristan Agency was targeting ‘terrorists of all shades’, including the deadly Haqqani Network. “There is no ambiguity in our policy now. We are treating all militant outfits, including the Haqqanis, as a threat to peace,” the official insisted.
The paradigm shift is apparently attributed to army chief General Raheel Sharif who, according to sources, has a clear stance on the war on terror unlike his predecessor.
Officials said the Afghan president welcomed Pakistan’s push against militants and made it clear that his administration would not allow any militant group, including those from the TTP, to find refuge on Afghan soil.
Islamabad has long been seeking decisive action against the TTP sanctuaries in the northeastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. In the past, Pakistan had even accused Afghan security agencies of supporting the TTP and its affiliates to further their interests.
However, with the change of government in Kabul, Islamabad is hoping that Afghan authorities would eliminate TTP ‘safe havens.’
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained tense during former Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s 13-year rule. Karzai often accused Pakistan’s security establishment of sheltering Afghan insurgents, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. But unlike Karzai, his successor struck a reconciliatory note during his visit and avoided blame game.
The Express Tribune has learnt that a considerable progress has been achieved to evolve a new security mechanism under which security forces of the two countries would increase cooperation in the post-2014 scenario.
An official said currently Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US-led Nato forces had a trilateral arrangement to deal with border issues as well as fighting militants. Now the focus has shifted from trilateral to a bilateral approach.
The renewed offer from Gen Raheel to train Afghan security forces is part of that policy that would help strengthen military-to-military ties. The Afghan president is believed to have given a positive response to Pakistan’s offer, which was not accepted previously by his predecessor.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2014.