RAWALPINDI - Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Commander International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) General Joseph F Dunford met here on Monday and discussed a variety of issues related to strengthening cooperation and pressuring militants threatening security along the Pak-Afghan border.

The meeting was part of the continuing tri-partite commission effort to strengthen military-to-military cooperation and regional stability. This was General Dunford’s first visit to Pakistan in his official capacity as Isaf Commander. Placing a high priority on the Isaf-Pakistan relationship, General Dunford had previously met with General Kayani in the days preceding his assumption of command in February.

During the Monday session, General Kayani reiterated Pakistan’s stance and desire for peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan and the need for a successful Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. He emphasised the need to continue supporting all efforts to bring peace in Pak-Afghan border region. He urged Isaf to help Pakistan check cross-border attacks launched from Afghanistan.

“Pakistan, the Afghanistan and the international community all desire peace and security in the region. These meetings are important to achieve that goal as we continue to explore ways to expand our relationship,” General Dunford said.

Meanwhile, the contemplated training to Afghan soldiers by Pakistan Army appears to have landed in doldrums following the deteriorating Pak-Afghan military ties in the wake of last week’s cross-border shelling incident in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

In a linked development, Isaf Commander General Joseph F Dunford arrived here reportedly on a ‘damage control’ mission.

On this January 29, Pakistan Army had purportedly handed over a selection list to Afghan authorities containing details of the training programmes being offered in its training institutes in Quetta and Islamabad. The development had followed an Afghan military delegation’s arrival in Pakistan, then, led by the Defence Minister General Bismillah Khan Muhammadi to visit the training facilities here.

However, the reported shelling incident in Kunar province from Pakistani area on Thursday and Friday just ahead of the arrival of an 11-member military delegation to Pakistan proved to be a serious blow to the military cooperation.

A senior army officer said, the Afghan authorities were likely to hand over Kabul’s priority list during the cancelled visit, in response to the Pakistan Army’s selection list regarding the contemplated military training programme for Afghan soldiers, before the matter landed in cold storage. “This is a serious blow,” the official commented.

The Isaf chief’s visit is seen against the backdrop of declining Pak-Afghan military relations. A meeting between General Kayani and General Dunford on Monday saw extensive discussion on the matter, the army officer said. As per reported understanding reached between the Pakistan and Afghan militaries this January, some 200 Afghan soldiers were expected to get military training in Pakistan in the next two years. The officers from Afghan National Army were to visit Pakistan initially for mid-career courses (MCCs).

In the first phase, the mid-career Afghan army officers were to acquire training in Islamabad and Quetta. Reportedly, the National Defence University (NDU) Islamabad, Command & Staff College Quetta and School of Infantry & Tactics (SIAT) Quetta had been marked as the three designated centres for this purpose. In the second phase, the newly-inducted Afghan recruits were to receive training at Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Abbotabad and Military College Jhelum.

The plan for training Afghan National Police at the National Police Academy Islamabad and Police Training College Sihala, Rawalpindi was also under consideration.