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Afghan Army Chief Sees Antiterror Cooperation With Pakistan

General Sher Mohammad Karimi
General Sher Mohammad Karimi

Afghanistan’s army chief says Pakistan has reached the conclusion that Kabul and Islamabad should unite in the fight against terrorism in the two countries.

General Sher Mohammad Karimi, the Afghan chief of army staff, said that, during his visit to Kabul on December 17, Pakistani Army Chief Sharif assured Afghan leaders they want to fight against all terrorists.

"We agreed that terrorists are merely terrorists, and there is no such thing as good or bad terrorists," Karimi told Radio Free Afghanistan. "We talked about showing a joint resolve and joint military operations against terrorists. We also need to share all information about terrorists."

He said the Pakistani military recognizes that there is no other option but to "cooperate and coordinate."

Karimi added the militaries in the two countries have talked about coordinating their counterterrorism operations.

The Afghan general, however, rejected media reports that Sharif had demanded the handover of Pakistani Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, who is believed to be hiding in eastern Afghanistan.

"They didn't mention Maulana Fazlullah. He doesn't live in Afghanistan, and we are not sheltering him," he said. "We have a long and porous border, so it is possible he might be operating from both sides of the border like other terrorists. But he is always on the run. We have never sheltered terrorists and will never do so."

Raheel and Pakistan's top spy, General Rizwan Akhtar, visited Kabul on December 17, a day after a deadly Taliban attack on a military-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, which killed nearly 150 people, including more than 130 schoolchildren.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out in revenge for an ongoing large-scale military operation against the insurgents in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Karimi said in his meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Sharif emphasized readiness in fighting terrorism. He said that Pakistan is now taking steps toward building trust between Kabul and Islamabad.

Michael Semple, an Irish expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan, sees the lack of cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad as the main factor that has allowed the Taliban to survive and thrive in both countries.

He said that several factors undermine cooperation between the two neighbors. "One of them is a basic lack of trust," he said. "There are still people certainly in the security establishment of Pakistan and probably in the security establishment of Afghanistan who believe that they are somehow obliged to engage in proxy warfare hosting the armed opposition of the neighboring country in the hope that the state through - them pursue - its objectives."

Semple says the two nations still can change their acrimonious relationship.

"If there is a serious move on both sides to do that, then I think the [Pakistani] Taliban will find it increasingly difficult to wage war, and the Afghan Taliban, who have some political pretensions, may then go to the negotiating table," he said.

Mustafa Sarwar wrote this story based on reporting by Asadullah Ludin and Abubakar Siddique in Kabul and Prague.