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 US Defence Department.
The report was submitted by the Defence Department to the Congress on Monday and covers the period between June 1 and 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 report 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. These include an increase in cross-border firing incidents between the Afghan National forces and the Pakistani military throughout 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,” the report said.
“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 Centre, 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 re-establishing Joint Border 17 Coordination Centres 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.