Army chief to visit Kabul on December 27

Army chief General Raheel Sharif will embark on an official visit to the Afghan capital city of Kabul on December 27 (Sunday), DG ISPR Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa said on Friday.

“During his day-long visit the army chief will hold meetings with senior political and military leadership of Afghanistan,” the spokesperson for the military’s media wing said in a Twitter message.

News of General Raheel’s visit to the war-torn country comes in wake of reports of increased violence and terror threats as Taliban insurgents carry out massive attacks on Afghan cities, fearing a collapse of the civilian government.

Meanwhile, senior Afghan officials hope the upcoming visit of Pakistan’s highest military official will not only provide and impetus to efforts for resurrecting a moribund peace process but also help mend fractured ties between the two neighbours.

Earlier this week, a senior official in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration had told The Express Tribune that Gen Raheel’s visit would have two dimensions. “The two sides will focus on ways to improve Pak-Afghan relations, and explore options for talks with the Taliban,” said the official who did not wish to be named.

“We will also touch upon the understanding reached during the recent ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process that envisages action against irreconcilable elements,” said the official, who was part of the Afghan delegation at the trilateral and quadrilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad.

Last week, President Ghani said the peace process should resume “in weeks not months”. And a section of the Afghan media quoted National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar as saying that talks could begin in “two to three weeks”.

Former Afghan army chief Gen Sher Muhammad Karimi had said on Monday that he was “optimistic about the outcome of Pakistan Army chief’s visit who has an important role in the peace process. “I hope Gen Raheel Sharif can encourage the Afghan Taliban to join the peace process,” he told The News Dispatch in Kabul.

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