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Afghanistan: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Visits Kabul Amid Violence, Tension

In the past week, about 100 people have been killed in Afghanistan in a series of ambushes, attacks, and factional clashes. Much of the violence has been blamed on the remnants of the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. RFE/RL reports that the violence near the Afghan-Pakistani border is expected to dominate a two-day visit to Kabul by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.

Prague, 21 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri is visiting Afghanistan today amid a wave of violence and growing instability along the border between the two countries.

Speaking in Islamabad today before leaving for his two-day visit, Kasuri said the government of Pakistan has a "deep interest" in peace with Afghanistan. He also said government officials in both countries have agreed to conduct regular consultations at least once every six months.

Upon his arrival at Kabul airport, Kasuri went straight into talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. He also was due to meet today with Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah.

The visit comes at a time of tense relations between Islamabad and Kabul. Afghan officials say remnants of the Taliban regime have been regrouping in Pakistan's autonomous tribal regions and conducting cross-border raids with increasing frequency into Afghanistan.

Karzai's spokesman Jawed Ludin said the alleged cross-border attacks by suspected Taliban guerrillas will certainly be discussed with Kasuri today. On 18 August, Ludin said Taliban fighters are now routinely crossing from Pakistan into southern Afghanistan to conduct guerrilla-style hit-and-run attacks.

He was speaking a day after hundreds of militants on trucks crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan's Paktika Province and attacked a local government office in the border town of Barmal, killing at least 22 people and injuring many others.

"In this part of Afghanistan, there are security problems as a result of terrorism," Ludin said. "Terrorism is not only a problem for Afghanistan. It is a problem for the world. Unfortunately, it is still very active in this [border] region [near Pakistan]. They want to threaten the Afghan people. They want to stop the reconstruction process in Afghanistan. They are still there and causing these problems."

Pakistan was a supporter of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan until the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Since then, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has joined the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition. But many Afghan officials charge that Pakistan's intelligence service is still secretly backing the remnants of the Taliban.

Islamabad strongly denies the allegations that it has been providing sanctuary for the Taliban. But it admits there may be some guerrillas based in its territory near the Afghan border.

In the past week, nearly 100 people have been killed in attacks, ambushes, and factional fighting across Afghanistan. The Taliban militia has been blamed for much of the violence, including a series of attacks on Afghan police and government buildings across southern Afghanistan. In just one day last week, 65 people were killed and dozens injured in a series of attacks across the country. Sunday's (17 August) violence raised the death toll to about 90.

According to Logar Province military commander Fazlullah Mujadadi, militants also ambushed and killed nine Afghan police on 18 August while they were investigating a rocket attack about 100 kilometers southwest of Kabul that had killed two people.

Concerns about the violence were fueled further on 19 August as Afghanistan celebrated its national Independence Day when an explosion rocked the house of Karzai's brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Nobody was killed in that blast, and the Afghan leader's brother later told RFE/RL that the explosion was caused by careless house staff who were removing weapons and munitions from the house. "This was not sabotage," he said. "This was just an accident. In the corner of our house there is a small room that had weapons and ammunition. When I learned about these weapons, I told [house staff] to carry it out to the military depot. And when they were carrying it, something fell and detonated."

For their part, Pakistani officials have expressed anger about separate border incidents in the tribal district of Mohmand. Pro-government Afghan militiamen reportedly have been firing on Pakistani troops that have been setting up border posts in their first-ever deployment into that autonomous tribal area. Cross-border firing during the past two months has occurred repeatedly in a disputed border area where troops from the two countries use conflicting maps.

In July, a mob of Afghans protesting against alleged border violations by Pakistani troops attacked Pakistan's Embassy in Kabul.

An unnamed official from Islamabad's Foreign Ministry told the French news agency AFP today that Kasuri will be reiterating Pakistan's desire for more concerted efforts against terrorism in both countries. That official said trade and economic cooperation also are on the agenda of Kasuri's visit.