Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to conduct “coordinated, complementary” security operations against terrorist groups on their respective sides of the shared border, officials confirmed Wednesday.
A high-powered U.S. bipartisan congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain mediated the deal during its visit this week to Islamabad and Kabul.
“The [U.S.] Senators said that the head of Pakistan’s armed forces, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, agreed to joint operations against terrorist groups in the Durand Line region,” said an Afghan statement after Tuesday’s talks between President Ashraf Ghani and the U.S. delegation.
“They said that the U.S. would provide monitoring and verification of these operations,” the statement quoted McCain’s delegation as saying, while sharing the Pakistani proposal with Ghani.
The nearly 2,600-kilometer, largely-porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is called the Durand Line. Both countries regularly accuse each other of not doing enough on their respective sides to stop terrorist infiltration. The allegations are blamed for deep mutual mistrust and strained bilateral ties.
“The Afghan government has welcomed the [Pakistani] proposal and a mechanism to undertake these simultaneous joint operations will be developed by our defense and security forces,” Afghan presidential spokesman Dawa Khan Meenapal told VOA on Wednesday.
Pakistan military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, when contacted by VOA, confirmed the security deal with Afghan counterparts. However, he dismissed the reported impression that Afghan forces would be allowed to step on Pakistani soil.
“There is no concept of joint operations [on Pakistani soil]. Pakistan does not and will not allow foreign boots on the ground,” said General Ghafoor.
He went on to explain that under the proposed “coordinated, complementary” operations, when Pakistani forces plan counterterrorism actions on their side of the border, Afghan counterparts will be required to mobilize forces on the other side and the other way around to prevent terrorists from fleeing.
McCain and his fellow senators, including Lindsay Graham, Sheldon Whitehouse, Elizabeth Warren and David Perdue, held talks with Pakistani civilian and military leaders and visited a tribal region near the Afghan border on Monday before traveling to Kabul for talks with leaders there.
President Ghani has long blamed Pakistan for not upholding its commitments to prevent terrorists from using Pakistani soil against Afghanistan. He has lately linked complete normalization of relations to the involvement of a third country to oversee actions and commitments undertaken by Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Afghan government alleges that Taliban insurgents and their ally, the Haqqani network, are using sanctuaries inside Pakistan for sustaining the insurgency in Afghanistan, charges Islamabad strongly rejects.
The offer of “coordinated” operations to Afghanistan came as Pakistan's military is building a fence on the long border and undertaking other fortification measures to deter militant infiltration in either direction. Islamabad has long complained that a lack of coordination from the Afghan side has allowed militants to flee security operations in the volatile Pakistani tribal belt and take refuge in Afghan border areas to plot attacks against Pakistan.