Pak-Afghan ties critical aspect of stability in Afghanistan, US Defense Report

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WASHINGTON, Dec 16 (APP): The relationship between Pakistan and the  Afghan government remains a critical aspect of enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan, according to a latest report by the U.S.  Defence Department.

The report was submitted by the Defense Department to the Congress on  Monday and covers the period between June 1 through November 30, 2015.

The report titled ‘Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan’ is released nearly one year into the US forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission focused on developing Afghan institutional capacity to enhance security and stability.

The reporte noted that since the beginning of President Ghani’s  tenure, leaders from both Pakistan and Afghanistan have made a concerted effort to improve relations and better address mutual security interests.

Although there was modest improvement in the relationship and a sense of  rapprochement early in 2015, several events have cooled progress, it added.

Bilateral tensions have increased over the last six months due to a  series of high-profile attacks in Kabul in August 2015, an increase in cross-border firing incidents between the Afghan National forces and the Pakistani military throughout the late summer and early fall, and a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan attack against a Pakistani Air Force base in Peshawar in September 2015.

“Despite these challenges, Afghanistan and Pakistan have maintained  regular contact at the most senior levels of government and in the military and RS advisors continue to leverage the ability of the coalition to encourage more robust bilateral communication at all levels.”

This is especially important as Pakistani military clearing operations  in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have increased militant presence in Afghanistan, requiring greater transparency and cooperation among RS and the Afghan and Pakistani militaries, the report said.

“Afghanistan and Pakistan relations remain essential to progress  against terrorist and militant groups on both sides of their shared border,” the report said.

A return to more frequent high-level political and military-to-military  engagements between the two countries, such as those that occurred earlier in 2015, will be an important signal of the direction of bilateral cooperation.

“Events during the reporting period such as Corps commander-level  meetings between ANDSF and Pakistani military officials to discuss border coordination are
positive signs that both countries recognize the need to work together,” the report said.

Through the RS Tripartite Joint Operations Center, Afghan and Pakistani  liaison officers meet monthly at the one-star level. In addition, during this reporting period, ANDSF and Pakistani military officials conducted meetings at the corps commander-level to discuss reestablishing Joint Border 17 Coordination Centers to enhance tactical-level coordination, which has decreased since the Afghan forces assumed full security for Afghanistan.

In early July 2015, Pakistan hosted a meeting between Afghan government  officials and members of the Taliban to discuss reconciliation. Although participants agreed
to continue talks to create an environment conducive to peace and reconciliation, a subsequent round of talks is yet to take place.

During the visit by Prime Nawaz Sharif to Washington, D.C., in October  2015, the Prime Minister and President Obama called on Taliban leaders to enter into direct talks with Kabul and work towards a sustainable peace settlement.