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ISI chief meets Afghan president as relations thaw

It was the third trip to Afghanistan in recent months for the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Rizwan Akhtar, hinting at new cooperation between the countries that have long accused each other of harbouring Islamist insurgents.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met Akhtar on Sunday, said Ghani spokesman Nazifullah Salarzai.

“In this meeting, both sides discussed ways to strengthen joint efforts against terrorism and extremism,” Salarzai said. He declined to go into detail.

Ghani – unlike his predecessor Hamid Karzai who had difficult relations with Islamabad – made a state visit to Pakistan soon after being sworn into office last year, pledging to improve ties.

In the latest meeting, the sides agreed to coordinate against militant groups that fight against each government and exploit the porous border to flee military crackdowns.

Pakistan wants Afghanistan’s help in stopping the Pakistani Taliban, which is under attack by the military in its stronghold of North Waziristan, from gaining shelter on Afghan territory.

Afghanistan for its part hopes Pakistan might use its influence to bring the exiled top leaders of the Afghan Taliban, who reportedly are in hiding in Pakistan, to the negotiation table to end the insurgents’ 13-year-old war against the U.S.-backed government. – Reuters

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