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Pakistan delivers tough message to Afghan Taliban over rising 'cross-border attacks'

Pakistan delivers tough message to Afghan Taliban over rising 'cross-border attacks'

- Interim Taliban administration warned if they do not eliminate Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants, action will be taken against them within Afghanistan, says official

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD (AA) – Pakistan has warned the interim Afghan Taliban administration that if terrorists involved in cross-border attacks in the country are not eliminated, Islamabad would take action against them within Afghanistan, an official said on Friday.

A high-level Pakistani delegation led by Defense Minister Khawaja Asif delivered this message to Afghanistan's acting Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar during his day-long visit to Kabul on Wednesday.

Asif was accompanied by Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum, the head of the country's premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and other senior officials from the defense and foreign ministries.

“Our delegation delivered a very loud and clear message to Afghan Taliban leadership to stop Afghanistan-based militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) from launching any spring offensive inside Pakistan and eliminate them from Afghan soil,” a senior security official told Anadolu on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“In case of failure to stop the TTP from cross-border attacks and does not take any action to eliminate them or expel them from their hideouts, then Pakistan has no other choice except to target their hideouts in border areas inside Afghanistan,” said the official, who claimed to be well aware of the meeting's details.

In response, the official claimed that Baradar denied the presence of TTP, a conglomerate of several militant groups in Pakistan that Islamabad believed were currently inside Afghanistan.

Later, the meeting was also joined by acting Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and acting Defense Minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, where Yaqoob took the matter of the drone attack carried out by the US last year in Kabul, according to the official source.

In August 2022, US President Joe Biden announced that his forces had killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike, which the Taliban interim administration refused to accept openly.

The Afghan officials alleged that the US launched the attack while using Pakistani airspace, but Islamabad rejected the claim, saying the US was never allowed to use its airspace against Afghanistan.

Taliban officials also insisted that the TTP has no presence in Afghanistan, with all of its leadership having relocated to Pakistan following the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in August 2021.

"We showed them proof of how TTP planned and carried out recent attacks in Bannu and Peshawar from Afghanistan and warned them that any further attack would result in a tough response from Pakistan," the security official said.

He was referring to the Bannu counter-terrorism facility, which was taken over by TTP militants for three days in December last year, killing at least two security personnel before the Pakistan Army killed all of the terrorists in an operation.

Over 100 people, mostly police officers, were also killed in a suicide bombing at a mosque inside a police compound in northwestern Peshawar late last month.

When asked about the expected Pakistani response in the event of an attack, the official said, "We have no other option but to target militants' hideouts in border areas inside Afghanistan."

“We have delivered this message to them,” he added.

Tensions between the two neighbors rose after the Taliban removed border fencing at some points along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, resulting in an increase in TTP terrorist attacks inside Pakistan in recent months.

Previously, Pakistan was believed to have some influence over the Afghan Taliban, and their return to power was seen as a major strategic victory for Islamabad. However, relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent months.

Baradar was one of the top commanders who had reportedly spent years in the captivity of Pakistani forces before being released to lead the Taliban delegation in the landmark Doha talks in 2020, which cleared the way for the re-capture of Afghanistan.

The Afghan Information Ministry in a statement later said the two sides discussed "bilateral relations, trade, economic cooperation, and security matters" during the meeting.

Baradar urged Islamabad to facilitate all Afghan travelers at the Torkham and Chaman borders, as well as to provide special facilities for patients in need of emergency treatment.

He also called for the release of Afghan nationals incarcerated in Pakistani jails, mainly for illegally entering Pakistan.

Kabul wanted to strengthen trade and economic ties with Islamabad, he said, stressing the importance of "fraternal relations" between the two neighbors.

He insisted that trade and economic issues should not be separated from politics and security.

The Pakistani delegation also promised to resolve these issues.

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