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Pakistani, Afghan Spymasters Hold Rare Talks

FILE - In this July 26, 2016 photo, Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar attends funeral prayers in Karachi, Pakistan.

The Spy chiefs of Pakistan and Afghanistan have held official talks in Kabul on bilateral security and counterterrorism cooperation.

Director General of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, Lt. General Naveed Mukhtar, traveled to the Afghan capital Tuesday in a bid to ease tensions between security establishments of the two countries, Pakistani and Afghan security sources confirmed to VOA.

There were no immediate details available from the meeting General Mukhtar held with his Afghan counterpart, Masoom Stanekzai, who heads the National Directorate of Security, or NDS.

The ISI chief’s visit came as Afghanistan and Pakistan consistently accused each other’s intelligence agencies of sheltering and supporting anti-state militants, who plot deadly terrorist attacks in both the countries.

General Mukhtar is also scheduled to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The two intelligence agencies had signed an initial agreement of cooperation shortly after Ghani assumed office in 2014 to help address mutual concerns, but news of the deal was leaked to Afghan media prematurely, preventing the cooperation from taking root, according to Pakistani officials.

The Taliban has announced its so-called “spring offensive” in Afghanistan. The Afghan government claims sanctuaries on Pakistani soil have enabled the insurgents to prolong the conflict in the country.

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah reiterated Monday the Islamist insurgency announced and planned its “spring offensive in a neighboring country”, though he did not name Pakistan

Pakistani authorities reject the charges and say they are making all possible efforts to strengthen security along a 2,600 kilometer border with Afghanistan to prevent terrorist infiltration in both directions.

On Tuesday, the Pakistan military said it repelled an attack on two security outposts by militants from across the border in Afghanistan. It said three assailants were killed and several were wounded while others were forced to retreat.

The militant assault took place in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal district of South Waziristan.

A high-powered Pakistani parliamentary delegation also visited Afghanistan this week for talks with counterparts and the Afghan leadership. Ayaz Sadiq, speaker of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, led the 15-member delegation to Kabul, which returned to Islamabad on Monday.

Sadiq described the meetings as highly successful and productive.

On Tuesday, the speaker briefed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about the visit, officials said.

“The prime minister stated that exchanges of parliamentary delegations between the two countries would further strengthen bilateral relations and will go a long way in realizing the shared objective of regional peace and stability,” an official statement quoted Sharif as saying.