Kabul ready to talk intelligence cooperation with Pakistan ‘at any level’: Afghan official

KABUL, Feb 21: Afghanistan is ready to hold dialogue with Pakistan for intelligence cooperation at ‘any level’, an Afghan security official has told members of the Pak-Afghan track-II dialogue in Kabul.

The Afghan official, speaking informally and off-the-record, said senior security officials of the two countries had planned a ‘interaction’ but three major attacks in Kabul, Kandahar and Helmand on January 10 delayed the process. Nearly 60 people, including five UAE diplomats were killed in the attacks. The UAE ambassador, who was injured in the blast, died of wounds last week.

The remarks by the Afghan security official came amid growing tensions over the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Pakistan last week, which claimed the lives of about 100 people and injured over 300 more.

“We are ready for deep discussions on intelligence cooperation. We need a better environment. We need engagement. But only meetings and shaking hands will not give results. Sincere and effective engagement is a must to remove the mistrust,” the Afghan official told members of the dialogue titled ‘Beyond Boundaries’ which concluded on Monday.

President Ashraf Ghani had put a pause on a memorandum of understanding between the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 2015. As the two sides struck the ground-breaking agreement to share intelligence and resources to combat terrorism, it was opposed in Afghanistan and some leaders, including Hamid Karzai, publicly opposed the deal as against the ‘national interests’. Afghan media had also reported then NDS Chief Rahmatullah Nabil had refused to sign the accord.

But the Afghan official said that Kabul is open for talks on intelligence cooperation at any level to explore options how to deal with the security challenges. “We also want Pakistan to extend its counter terrorism strategy to the region,” he said.

“Pakistan may be concerned only about TTP, China has apprehensions about ETIM, Arab states will be worried about Da’ish and al Qaeda, Iran may have fears about Jundullah, Uzbekistan would expect dangers of IMU but Afghanistan is fighting against nearly 30 groups.” He claimed that the Afghan Taliban have provided space to many of these groups as they all have same approach.

The Afghan official said bilateral track for Pakistan and Afghanistan is the best option to deal with the security problems and end violence in both countries as ‘no one will bring stability for us’.
He also renewed Kabul’s suggestion for a third party’s verification of the claims by both countries about the presence of the armed groups on both side of the border. The verification could either be by the US or China, he said.

On peace talks with the Taliban, he said peace dialogue is more important to Afghanistan but “we want action to be taken against the Taliban if they decline the dialogue.”

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