Top Afghan, Pakistani officials meet in Kabul amid strained relations, security concerns

KABUL: Top officials from Afghanistan’s Taliban government met with Pakistan’s defense minister and spy chief in Kabul on Wednesday, days after the main border crossing was closed and as Islamabad faces a growing security threat.
Reports of authorities exchanging gunfire surfaced on Monday after Afghan authorities closed the crossing at Torkham a day earlier over Pakistan’s alleged refusal to facilitate trade transport and Afghan patients going to the neighboring country for treatment.
Skirmishes have occurred along the Afghan-Pakistan border for years and in recent months have resulted in many civilian casualties with both Kabul and Islamabad blaming each other for the violence.
Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Mullah Mohammed Yaqoob and Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund held talks with the high-ranking Pakistani delegation in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
“The two sides discussed issues on the ground, particularly the crossing points with Pakistan,” Mujahid told Arab News.
The Pakistani delegation was led by Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif and Nadeem Anjum, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
“God willing, a solution will be found for the difficulties,” he said.
“The Pakistani delegation was assured that no one will create a threat to Pakistan and the Pakistani side should too give attention to Afghan security until the economic and political relations of the two nations can be strengthened.”
In a statement issued by his office, Abdul Ghani Baradar said Pakistan and Afghanistan “are neighbors and should get along well.”
“Political and security concerns should not affect business or economic matters,” the statement read.
The Taliban official also called for the release of Afghans detained in Pakistan and urged for the facilitation of passengers and patients crossing at Torkham and Spin Boldak during Wednesday’s meeting, and assurances were given that the Pakistani side will work on the issues.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that discussions touched on “security-related matters including counter terrorism measures.”
Since November last year, Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks after the Pakistani Taliban — the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP — ended a months-long cease-fire with the government. The TTP is a separate militant group that openly pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban after the fall of Kabul in 2021.
Security issues were a priority for the Pakistani delegation’s visit to Kabul.
“Very clearly, the Pakistani delegation is there in Kabul because of security concerns,” Kaswar Klasra, editor in chief of the Islamabad Telegraph, told Arab News.
“The TTP has become a very great threat to Pakistan’s existence,” he said. “Pakistan is seeking the Taliban’s government help to stop TTP from attacking targets in Pakistan, and this is the core agenda of the Pakistani delegation.”
Since the Taliban takeover, Pakistan has allowed critically ill or injured Afghans to enter the country for medical treatment, though, like many other countries, it still does not recognize Afghanistan’s Taliban government.