Top Afghan officials hold talks with Pakistani authorities

Army spokesman in brief statement on Wednesday said that Mohib also met army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Top Afghan officials hold talks with Pakistani authorities

A high-level Afghan delegation led by national securityadviser has held talks with top civilian and military officers in Pakistan,dicussing security issues, peace process with Taliban and also to prepare theground for a possible visit of President Ashraf Ghani next month.

Hamdullah Mohib – who led a high-powered delegation thatincluded the Afghan interior minister – was the first senior Afghan official tohave travelled to Islamabad in months.

The crucial talks with Pakistani authorities, including Armychief Qamar Javed Bajwa, were part of the latest push by the two neighbours toremove irritants in their bilateral ties that have undermined efforts for apeace deal in Afghanistan, officials said on Wednesday.

Diplomatic officials said that main engagements were withthe security officials but foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood also attendeddelegation level talks on border security, Afghan peace process and politicalties.

Army spokesman in brief statement on Wednesday said thatMohib also met army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.

"Matters related to mutual interest, peace andstability in the region, Pak-Afghan border management and prospects for peacewith particular emphasis on reconciliation process in Afghanistan werediscussed," the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in astatement.

Diplomatic sources said that Ghani was likely to visitPakistan next month for which was invited by Prime Minister Imran Khan when theAfghan leader talked over phone with him last month.

Mohib mission was to hold initial talks on key issues to seeif progress was possible during visit of President Ghani.

Pakistan's role is considered as a key to bring peace inAfghanistan.

The Afghan peace initiative has been moving at a snail'space due to refusal of the Taliban to sit for talks with the Afghan governmentofficials.

Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is the co-founderof the Taliban movement with Mullah Omar who remained a synonym for the Talibanuntil his death was disclosed in 2015. Mullah Baradar was arrested in 2010 injoint ISI-CIA operation from Karachi but released by Pakistan last year to helpjumpstart the peace process.

But there are many irritants undermining such efforts,including the trust deficit between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kabul is still wary of Islamabad's role in the peaceprocess. Pakistan, on the other hand, has its own list of grievances, includingAfghanistan's patronage of certain militant groups that often launch attacks fromacross the border.

A senior official said the Afghan NSA's visit was meant todiscuss all such issues. The official said Pakistan was trying to improve tieswith Afghanistan and the visit of President Ghani could help achieve that goal.

The Taliban are currently holding talks with the US but haveso far refused to sit across the table with the Kabul administration. They arein discussion to end more than a 17-year long bloody war in Afghanistan.

The Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan, and are morepowerful than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 terrorattacks in 2001.

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