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Afghan president demands action from Pakistan against Taliban

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani demanded tough action from Pakistan against Taliban militants in a letter seeking greater anti-terrorism cooperation, after facing strong public criticism over a controversial intelligence-sharing deal between the neighbours.

The spy agencies of both countries this month agreed to trade intelligence and bolster cooperation in their fight against the Taliban, the latest sign of a thaw in once-frosty ties.

The Afghan government played down the significance of the deal, which triggered uproar in parliament and an avalanche of public criticism, with many accusing Ghani’s government of selling out to longtime nemesis Pakistan.

In the letter, whose contents were shared by officials with AFP on Sunday, Ghani asked Islamabad’s civilian and military leadership to condemn the Taliban’s annual spring offensive and reiterated Kabul’s longstanding demand of denying insurgents sanctuary on their side of the border.

The letter also demanded that Pakistan place Taliban leaders in Quetta and Peshawar under house arrest and detain members of the Taliban-allied Haqqani network “responsible for recent terror campaign in Afghanistan”.

The letter comes as the Taliban intensify their annual spring offensive, launched in late April, which has sent civilian casualties soaring.

It marks the first fighting season in which Afghan forces will battle the insurgents without the full support of US-led foreign combat troops.

Afghan officials have frequently accused Pakistan of harbouring and nurturing Taliban insurgents, who are waging a 13-year war against local and foreign troops in the country.

But Ghani has actively courted Pakistan, which has historically backed the Taliban, since coming to power in what observers say is a calculated gambit to pressure the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Afghanistan’s engagement with Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban is seen as a major policy shift from the previous Hamid Karzai government, which accused Islamabad of destabilising Kabul. – AFP

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