Pakistan News

Afghan army chief to be chief guest at Kakul passing out parade today

Afghan army chief to be chief guest at Kakul passing out parade today

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Army Chief Gen Sher Mohammad Karimi will be the chief guest at the passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul, on Saturday, the military’s public affairs division said.

Gen Karimi would have the distinction of being the first foreign dignitary to be the chief guest at the ceremony, which marks the commissioning of officers on completion of their two-year-long training course at the country’s premier military academy.

The Afghan army chief’s participation as chief guest at the passing out parade of the 132 PMA Long Course signifies a transformation in bilateral relations over the past few months, particularly defence cooperation which once suffered from mutual mistrust.

The shift in relations started with the election of President Ashraf Ghani last year. Cooperation in counter-terrorism operations and intelligence sharing, however, intensified after the Peshawar school carnage by Taliban which left over 140 schoolchildren, teachers and other staff members dead.

Gen Raheel Sharif, the army chief, has visited Kabul thrice since President Ghani assumed office in September last year. During his last visit to Afghanistan in February this year, Gen Sharif conveyed the willingness of Afghan Taliban to negotiate a political settlement with the Afghan government. ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar too has undertaken quite a few visits to Kabul over this period.

Six Afghan cadets are undergoing training at the Kakul Academy since February.

Much like the symbolism behind Gen Karimi’s participation in the passing out parade, the start of training of Afghan cadets at a Pakistani institution was also symbolic of the progress in relations.

Pakistan had been expressing interest in training Afghan soldiers since 2010 to build trust with the Afghan National Army and counter Indian influence in the Afghan military, but former Afghan President Hamid Karzai rebuffed the idea.

Gen Karimi, in a meeting with his host Gen Raheel Sharif, discussed the proposal for expanding defence and training cooperation between the two armies.

A military official later told Dawn that there was an agreement on increasing the number of Afghan officers to be trained in Pakistan.

Issues relating to peace and stability in the region were also discussed during the meeting and both commanders agreed on denying operational space to terrorists on both sides of the border.

“At the meeting at the GHQ, (Pakistan’s) Army Chief and the Afghan Chief of General Staff pledged to continue targeting terrorists on respective sides, ensuring total denial of space,” military spokesman Asim Bajwa said.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2015

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