Pakistan’s Defense Minister and ISI Chief visited Kabul this week to meet with Taliban officials following the closure of the Torkham border crossing.
On the one-day trip, the high-ranking delegation tried to convince the Taliban caretaker government to help Islamabad fight the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The office of Mullah Baradar, deputy economic chief minister of the Taliban, announced in a statement that the Pakistani officials discussed economic cooperation, regional relations, trade, and Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban.
The statement, however, did not provide details about ongoing tensions between the Taliban and Islamabad but noted that “political and security concerns should not negatively affect commercial or economic issues.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, meanwhile, said in a statement that the delegation met with Abdul Ghani Baradar, Yaqoob Mujahid, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Amir Khan Mottaqi during the trip.
“Matters relating to the growing threat of terrorism in the region, particularly by TTP and ISKP (Daesh) came under discussion. The two sides agreed to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism posed by various entities and organizations,” the statement said.
Six days back, the Taliban closed the Torkham border crossing and accused Pakistan of not adhering to its commitments. In recent weeks, due to “security concerns”, Pakistan has intensified its control of the border areas of the country.
A senior Pakistani diplomat said that the Taliban was responsible for the conflict between the group and Pakistan’s border forces. According to the diplomat, the Taliban wanted to transfer a group of people without passports and visas from the village of Dor Baba in Nangarhar province to Pakistan. But Pakistani border forces prevented the group from entering Pakistan and for this reason the Taliban opened fire. The Pakistani diplomat added that a Pakistani soldier was wounded during the skirmish.
The Taliban, however, denied there were any casualties. However, sources from the Taliban told Amu TV that two Taliban members were killed in the clash. The victims’ names were Mullah Janan and Mullah Majid and both were deputy intelligence directors of the Taliban in the Alishang district of Laghman province.
Pakistan’s delegation’s visit meanwhile took place amid increasing anger in Pakistan after a months-long ceasefire between the TTP militants and Islamabad ended in late November. The ceasefire had been sealed following the mediation of the Afghan Taliban.
Since then, there has been numerous media reports on the close relationship between the Taliban and TTP and Pakistani officials have claimed that armed groups from Afghanistan have been attacking the country.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto said on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference 2023 last week that terrorist groups impose a threat to the region and the world from inside Afghanistan, emphasizing the need for greater coordination of the international community to thwart the threats.
“The concern is that if we do not take the current government of Afghanistan (Taliban) seriously and they do not show the will and capacity to confront terrorist groups, they will first carry out terrorist activities in the region, which we are witnessing an increase in terrorist activities in Pakistan since the fall of Kabul,” Bhutto said.
Shinkai Karokhail, former Afghan ambassador to Canada, told Amu TV that Pakistan is in a “poor political, economic and security” situation and the Pakistani army is under pressure from the political ranks and the citizens of the country.
She believes that the Pakistani officials traveled to Kabul this week to ask the Taliban to stop the TTP from attacking Pakistan.
“I think that the purpose of their visit was to ask help from Taliban officials for Pakistan, on how to prevent TTP’s attacks in Pakistan, or to force them to sit down with Pakistani intelligence so as to resolve the issues,” Karokhail said.
This was not the first visit of high-ranking officials of the Pakistani government to Afghanistan after the fall of the republic system. A day after the Taliban returned to power, Faiz Hamid, the former head of Pakistan’s Internal Intelligence Organization (ISI), traveled to Kabul. Hamid again traveled to Afghanistan two months after the Taliban took control of Kabul and met with senior Taliban officials, including Mullah Yaqoob, the Taliban’s acting defense minister.
In late November, Pakistan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar visited Kabul and held talks with Taliban officials.
Now, as tensions between the border forces of Pakistan and the Taliban at the Torkham crossing increase, a high-ranking delegation of Pakistani government officials again traveled to Kabul.
Open, closed, reopened!
On Friday, the Torkham border crossing reopened – after being closed by the Taliban on Sunday and then reopened days later, only to be closed again by Pakistan.
However, Friday’s reopening came with conditions. Only people with family living in Pakistan and Pakistani citizens are allowed to cross.
Also people from Afghanistan in urgent need of medical treatment are allowed to cross after getting permits.
According to Taliban officials, talks are still going about allowing vehicles and commercial goods on both sides of the border to cross, and as talks continue, thousands of trucks trucks carrying commercial goods and foodstuff line up at the border.
Investors and truck drivers have said the closure of the border crossing has caused huge financial losses to them.