Pakistan, Afghan leaders discuss security, cooperation

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 15, 2010 17:30 hrs

The leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan Wednesday called for greater cooperation in security and intelligence to tackle rising militancy that has rocked their countries.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari agreed that cooperation was the best way to eradicate the 'common threat' of Islamic militancy.

'As I said before we need more security cooperation between our intelligence and their intelligence, which Pakistan is willing to offer,' Zardari said at a joint press conference. 'The cooperation with Afghanistan has become much better, much stronger and we intend to enhance it further.'

The Afghan leader, who earlier arrived on a two-day visit, said both countries were up against a common enemy and should intensify engagements to secure the common interest of peace in the region.

'These (militancy and security) are issues which we should fight together -- jointly, hand in hand, so that the two countries are secure. The problem (of militancy) is for both of us, we are both affected by it and we both must find the courage to be frank, open and intrusive in dialogue,' he said.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is controlled by the powerful military, is often blamed for helping the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan and wrecking international efforts to bring peace in the country.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have a troubled history of mutual relations and in the past Karzai openly blamed Pakistan for his domestic problems. But things have improved since he launched reconciliatory efforts to win over some of the Taliban in a bid to foster peace.

During his visit, the Afghan leader will also meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said Intesar Sulehri, information officer at the Pakistan foreign ministry.

Karzai, who is making his second visit to Pakistan since his re-election last year, is seeking greater support from Islamabad for a reconciliation process with the Taliban.

Pakistan is believed to have influence on Taliban militants, mainly because it supported the emergence of the force in the mid-1990s.

The country's intelligence agencies are suspected of having covertly assisted the Taliban after their 2001 ouster from power despite Islamabad joining an international alliance against terrorism.

Western officials have alleged that the top Taliban shura, or advisory council, operates from Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan, which borders the Afghan province of Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual home and former headquarters.

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