Top Pakistan, Afghanistan diplomats discuss security as TTP ends truce

ISLAMABAD/KABUL: The deputy foreign minister was in Kabul on Tuesday for talks with the Taliban leadership, a day after Afghanistan-based Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group ended a cease-fire with Islamabad and announced a resumption of attacks across the country.

This is the first visit by any woman minister to Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the war-ravaged nation.

Hina Rabbani Khar and Amir Khan Muttaqi, the host foreign minister, discussed security, among other matters, just as their respective delegations discussed “matters of mutual importance”, according to the Foreign Office.

The meeting also focused on consultations between the two governments. “A range of bilateral issues of common interest including cooperation in education, health, trade and investment, regional connectivity, people-to-people contacts, and socioeconomic projects,” the Foreign Office said.

Mohammad Sadiq, the special assistant to the prime minister on Afghanistan, was also present.

The visit follows an announcement by the TTP ending a five-month old agreement to pause violence after Pakistan Army stepped up operations against them in former tribal regions and elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan.

On her arrival in the capital, Khar was received at the airport by Abdul Latif Nazari, deputy minister of economy, and Ubaid ur-Rehman Nizamani, head of mission at Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul.

Since the Taliban seized power in August last year, its ties with Islamabad have deteriorated amid border clashes and a spike in cross-border attacks by TTP militants. Islamabad has repeatedly asked the Taliban to withdraw support to such elements widely reported to be operating freely inside the war-torn country.

Experts believe the group, instead of providing any strategic advantage or contributing to Pakistan’s security, has become a worrisome thorn in Islamabad’s side.

And, because of this, the longstanding alliance between the group and Islamabad, which dates back to the emergence of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, is coming under unprecedented strain as their interests diverge.

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