By RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal
February 22, 2023
A high-level delegation led by Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif is holding talks with Taliban rulers in Kabul amid tensions prompted by Islamabad’s accusations that Afghanistan is harboring Pakistani militants and the recent closing of a key border crossing between the two neighbors.
Asif is being accompanied by Islamabad’s special representative to Afghanistan, Sadiq Khan, and General Nadeem Anjum, the chief of the powerful Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad said on Twitter that the delegation was to “discuss security-related matters including counter-terrorism measures.”
The visit comes as thousands of trucks remained stranded at the Torkham border crossing following the Taliban’s closing of the key gateway on February 19. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also has warned that the use of Afghan soil by militants from the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is posing a threat to Islamabad.
The Taliban closed Torkham for what they said was Pakistan’s failure to fulfill a pledge that it will allow movement for Afghans without valid travel documents for medical purposes.
Pakistan has recently tightened security measures and controls at the border crossings with Afghanistan since the TTP ended a cease-fire with the government in November.
TTP militants are known to have been sheltering in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s re-emergence following the withdrawal of the U.S.-led forces in August 2021. However, Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers deny that they are offering safe haven to TTP militants.
The office of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the acting deputy prime minister of the Taliban-led government, said in a statement on February 22 that he and the Pakistani delegation held talks about economic relations, trade, and the situation at border crossings.
Both the Torkham and Chaman border crossings, which are critical for landlocked Afghanistan, have been temporarily closed in the past.