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Afghanistan and Pakistan Meet to Address Terrorism Challenges

Representatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan met over the last two weeks on two seperate occasions to jointly address the threat of terrorism to the two countries. In both meetings, Afghan and Pakistani officials vowed to work more closely to fight terrorists and extremists that have launched an increasing number of deadly attacks in the two countries this year.

On October 22, Afghanistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Rangin D. Spanta traveled to Pakistan for an official visit. During his trip, Dr. Spanta met with his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, to discuss issues of bilateral concern. The meeting was part of the closer relations that have developed since the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari took power in Pakistan in September.

According to a joint statement after their meeting, Dr. Spanta and Mr. Qureshi "emphasized that extremism and terrorism posed a common threat to the two countries as well as to the regional and international peace. They agreed to collaborate closely to eliminate the scourge of extremism, militancy and terrorism. In this context, there will be regular contacts on political; military; security and intelligence tracks." Dr. Spanta also met with the Speaker of the National Assembly and the National Security Advisor.

On October 27-28, representatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan met to discuss reconciliation efforts with certain sectors of the Taliban as part of a larger strategy to attack terrorism in the region.

The "mini-jirga," named in reference to the larger peace jirga held in Kabul in August 2007, included 25 representatives from each country, with Afghanistan's delegation being led by former foreign minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Pakistan's delegation being led by North Western Frontier Province Governor Owais Ghani. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, also attended the jirga talks.

According to statements by Dr. Abdullah, the mini-jirga formed a number of committees to reach out to different groups and would meet again in the coming months to report on the progress made. "We will sit, we will talk to them, they will listen to us and we will come to some sort of solution," he stated. "Without dialogue we cannot have any sort of conclusion."

"The mini-jirga advised both governments to deny sanctuary to terrorists and militant elements that are a threat to both countries," he further added. "At the same time one new recommendation of the peace jirga was to expedite the process of peace and reconciliation. We agreed that contacts should be established with the opposition in both countries, joint contacts through the mini-jirga. Those who are willing to take this opportunity and come forward, the door is open," he stated.

During the visit, Dr. Abdullah also met with the President Zardari, where they discussed security between both countries. President Zardari also hosted a dinner in honor of the participants of the mini-jirga.

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