Hours after a suicide bomber in Jalalabad, Afghanistan killed at least 33 people and wounded scores of others, Afghan's military chief, in an unprecedented speech in neighboring Pakistan, called for both nations to redouble counterterrorism efforts.
The bloodshed in Afghanistan occurred on a day when its army chief, General Sher Mohammad Karimi, addressed a graduation parade of army cadets in neighboring Pakistan. This was the first time an Afghan military leader had been invited to the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy in the northern city of Abbotabad and underscored the increasing collaboration between the two militaries.
General Karimi described terrorism as a common enemy of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying it does not recognize boundaries or religious or moral principles.
“Their naked nefarious design is to undermine states and grab power through terror and fear," he said. "Countering and ultimately defeating this menace and threat effectively, therefore, requires sincere, close, result-oriented cooperation and coordination between states, especially between next door neighbors based on the accepted principles and norms of equality, non-interference in each other’s affairs, mutual respect and shared interest among sovereign states.”
The Afghan general also emphasized the need for increased public support for effective counter-extremism efforts being undertaken on both sides of the shared border.
“Another key element of winning this battle against non-state actors, the terrorists and the extremists, who kill and maim our innocent citizens and hold back the progress and prosperity of our countries, is the sustained and continuous support and backing of our people," he said. "To ensure this crucial support, states need to continuously show to their respective publics that their cooperation is working and is fruitful. And this can only be done through actions and cooperation that result in concrete results and outcomes.”
Referring to recent improvements in bilateral ties, which have been marred by decades of mutual mistrust and suspicion, General Karimi asserted that Afghanistan and Pakistan must not let what he called a historic opportunity to defeat the non-state actors involved in the killing and maiming of innocent civilians slip from their hands.
“Our region has suffered from nearly four decades of war and conflict but I believe that peace in this region, and most importantly for all us assembled here, in Afghanistan and Pakistan is imminently attainable," he said. "The ongoing strategic dialogue between our two countries gives me great hope and we all need to re-double our earnest, sincere efforts so that we help realize the noble and rightful aspiration of millions of our citizens for a life of peace, security, dignity and prosperity.”
Afghanistan and Pakistan have for years accused each other of harboring militants responsible for attacks in the other country. Afghan officials believe fugitive leaders of the Taliban are using safe havens in Pakistani border areas for directing insurgent attacks in Afghanistan.
Islamabad insists Islamist militants referred to as Pakistani Taliban are using bases in neighboring Afghanistan for deadly attacks inside Pakistan. However, cooperation between security forces and intelligence agencies of the two countries have increased since President Ashraf Ghani took office in Kabul six months ago.
Since then Pakistan and Afghanistan have exchanged high-level political, military and economic delegations to deepen ties in all fields. Among other positives moves, for the first time in the troubled history of the two nations, six Afghan army cadets have been undergoing training with their Pakistani counterparts at the military academy where General Karimi Saturday referred to his Pakistani counterpart, General Raheel Sharif, as his “brother and good colleague."
Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a written statement strongly condemned the bombing in Jalalabad. He said that Pakistani security forces have targeted and dismantled networks of these terrorists on its soil and will be happy to provide any assistance to Afghanistan to “successfully fight terrorism."