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December 29, 2014

Improved Pak-Afghan ties key to fighting Taliban: Sartaj

 
December 29, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan says its anti-terrorism campaign is focused on all militant outfits operating in the country, without distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban.
Adviser on National Security and Foreign Policy, Sartaj Aziz, in an interview told VOA the policy has resulted in improved counter-terrorism cooperation with neighbouring Afghanistan.
Since the visit of new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan last month, both sides have reported increased economic and security cooperation to promote regional peace efforts. Sartaj Aziz said the recent attack on a military-run school in Peshawar was the first incident to test the resolve of the two countries to jointly take on militants threatening them.
Aziz told VOA that Islamabad swiftly shared evidence on the handlers in Afghanistan of the brutal school attack with Kabul at the highest level and the Afghan authorities responded appropriately. “This was the first sort of event which called upon that mechanism to come into place,” said Aziz. “So, there were very high-level exchanges between the two countries and, therefore, a coordinated action was taken. And I think in the next few weeks the mechanism will be further strengthened and therefore I hope that in future we will be able to deal with such events even more systematically and more rapidly. But it is a good indication that the cooperation that had started after President Ghani’s taking over is now taking shape.”
Leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Mullah Fazlulllah, has allegedly taken shelter in areas around the eastern Afghan province of Kunar after fleeing military operations across the border. Afghan security forces started conducting offensives in the area soon after the Peshawar attack, killing many fugitive insurgents. “We are not making any distinction (between good and bad Taliban) and I think this questions does not arise that we are helping anybody as far as attacks (in Afghanistan) are concerned,” said

Aziz. “But even now in the Afghan media sometimes, any insurgent activity that takes place in Afghanistan, fingers are pointed at Pakistan but we are doing our best to dispel such impression because we have no interest in creating instability in Afghanistan. In fact, stability in Afghanistan is absolutely critical for Pakistan’s own stability. So, I think these are past perceptions and some of them still linger on.”
Afghan and US officials believe the top leadership of the Haqqani network remains in Pakistan after moving out from their safe haven in North Waziristan where a major counter-insurgency operation has been under way since this past June. Aziz did not rule out the possibility that some Afghan militants may have taken shelter in parts of Pakistan before the Waziristan offensive was launched, citing the mountainous terrain.
“I think it is for Afghanistan to decide and my own feeling is that President Ashraf Ghani has invited them for a dialogue,” said Aziz. “Some have responded some have not, so I think the process has to be allowed to continue. We can of course support the process to the extent we can by sharing information by sharing advice.”
The United States also acknowledge the positive trend and increased cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and has promised to continue its support in bringing the two even closer to ensure regional peace.
Following the withdrawal of the bulk of international forces from Afghanistan by the end of this month, analysts see often rocky ties between Islamabad and Kabul transitioning from a relationship of mistrust into greater counter-terrorism cooperation and restoration of mutual trust.