Pakistan pledges support in fight against Taliban

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Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday pledged support to Afghanistan in its fight against the Taliban during a visit to Kabul, the latest sign of a thaw in their once-frosty relationship.

Sharif’s visit to Kabul, his first since President Ashraf Ghani came to power in September, comes as concerns grow over an upsurge in Taliban-led violence in Afghanistan.

“I can assure you Mr President Ashraf Ghani that the enemies of Afghanistan cannot be the friends of Pakistan,” Sharif said at a joint news conference with the Afghan leader.

Afghan officials have frequently accused longtime nemesis Pakistan of harbouring and nurturing Taliban insurgents, who are waging a 13-year war against local and foreign troops in the country.

But Ghani has actively courted Pakistan, which has historically backed the Taliban, since coming to power in what observers say is a calculated gambit to pressure the insurgents to the negotiating table.

“The criterion for friendship is that a friend stands beside a friend in very tough situations,” Ghani told Sharif.

In his reply, Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan’s “full support for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process”.

Afghanistan’s engagement with Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban is seen as a major policy shift from the previous Hamid Karzai government, which accused Islamabad of destabilising Kabul.

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