ISLAMABAD: The rise of Daesh in Afghanistan has intensified the need for urgent security cooperation in the region, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif warned this morning.

Terrorism and extremism are Kabul and Islamabad’s common enemies and the two countries need a common strategy to defeat them, he said at the opening of the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan.

His comments reflected growing concern among regional leaders at the increasing number of attacks by insurgents linked to the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The group has waged a series of attacks on Taliban fighters in Nangahar province in the past week and the government has launched air strikes to contain them. Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister Hikmat Khalil Karzai voiced his fears over the group’s emergence shortly after his arrival in Islamabad on Tuesday and called for a united approach against this “evil phenomenon.”

The Prime Minister today added his voice to those warning of the group’s emergence in Afghanistan and calling for greater co-operation to defeat it.

"The emergence of newer and more threatening terrorist groups like Daesh should also strengthen our resolve against terrorism," he said.

“Terrorism and extremism is the common enemy of Pakistan and Afghanistan and we need to collectively combat it,” he added.  

He called for new Standard Operating Procedures to control the border between the two countries, the return and resettlement of more than one million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. The movement of refugees back and forth across the border posed a serious security risk which is being exploited by terrorist groups, he warned.

Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani thanked Pakistan for those who had fled its conflict but said his country was now bearing the brunt of a new refugee crisis. Between 350,000 to 500,000 Pakistani refugees had fled across the border following the Pakistan Army’s Zarb-e-Azb operation against Taliban insurgents in the country’s Tribal Areas.

Despite thanking Pakistan for hosting refugees, his country had received more economic support from other parts of Asia than its next-door neighbour and singled out Turkmenistan for its investment.

"Turkmen railways, transmission lines, highways, gas pipelines and oil pipelines are reaching Afghanistan and eminently, we are going to inaugurate the TAPI pipeline in Turkmenistan... Afghanistan is rapidly moving towards regional integration towards Central Asia, East Asia and West Asia."

"By contrast, our ambitious projects of cooperation for transit and linkages to Pakistan have still remained at the level of conception and aspiration. I hope this conference results in significant movement in this domain,” he said.