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Afghanistan, Pakistan to Hold Key Talks as Cross-Border Terrorism Strains Ties

ISLAMABAD — A senior Pakistani envoy will travel to Afghanistan on Wednesday for bilateral talks with Taliban leaders amid growing allegations Afghan-based fugitive militants have stepped up cross-border terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

Asif Durrani, Islamabad’s newly appointed special representative on Afghanistan, will hold meetings in Kabul, focusing on mutual trade and economic and security cooperation, said a Pakistani official Tuesday. He spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to interact publicly with the media.

Durrani told VOA in the run-up to his Kabul visit that Pakistan’s trade with and through landlocked Afghanistan had increased since the Taliban reclaimed control of the country two years ago. Bilateral trade currently stands at more than $2 billion, according to official data.

The Pakistani envoy also hailed the growth of Afghanistan’s trade with other neighbors, including China and Iran. Durrani said that “the relative Afghan peace” has enabled Pakistan to increase its trade with landlocked Central Asian countries through Afghan transit routes to nearly $200 million from $55 million two years ago.

“It is good for Afghanistan and will help address many issues; especially it will reduce the poverty rate, which is close to 95% per the U.N. estimates. It is a promising process, but it will take a while,” Durrani said.

“An increase in economic activity will also help deal with the humanitarian crisis amid reports that international donors may reduce their aid contribution for Afghanistan. So, the coming winters are likely to be much harsher for Afghans,” the Pakistani envoy said.

Durrani’s visit coincides with a surge in militant attacks in Pakistan, particularly in districts adjacent to the country’s nearly 2,600-kilometer Afghan border. The violence has killed more than 400 people this year, mostly security forces, with the Pakistani military losing 12 soldiers in a single day on July 12.

Source : voa news