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Afghan envoy expresses surprise over FO’s claim of handing over terror suspects

ISLAMABAD (Monitoring Desk): Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Omar Zakhilwal on Wednesday expressed his surprise after Pakistan’s Foreign Office claimed a day earlier that the country had handed over 27 suspected terrorists to Afghan authorities in November 2017.

On Tuesday, FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal had said that Pakistan had handed over individuals, who were suspected of belonging to Tehreek-i-Taliban Afghanistan (TTA) and Haqqani Network (HN), to Afghanistan.

Zakhilwal, in a post on a social media platform, said it would be it would be a huge step in the bilateral relationship between the two countries “if this indeed happens”.

Afghan authorities, on a regular basis, blame Pakistan after major terrorist attacks in the country and accuse Pakistan of providing safe haven to terror networks operating inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan, in its defence, counters the allegations by stating that a large portion of Afghan territory is outside of Kabul’s influence and control, providing adequate room to terror outfits to carry out their activities in both countries.

Faisal had also said that Pakistan has continued to push any suspected TTA and HN elements to prevent them from using Pakistani soil for terrorist activity in Afghanistan.

Earlier in January, the United States announced that it was suspending the transfer of military equipment and security-related funds to Pakistan.

The suspension of security assistance to Islamabad came after Washington accused Pakistan of playing a “double game” on fighting terrorism and warned Islamabad it would have to do more if it wanted to maintain US aid.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley had also confirmed that Washington would withhold $255 million in assistance to Pakistan.

Haley’s statement followed an angry tweet from Trump that the US had been rewarded with “nothing but lies and deceit” for giving Pakistan billions in aid.

In August, Trump concluded a months-long review of America’s strategy to win the brutal war in Afghanistan — now entering its 17th year — and called for an increase in the tempo and intensity of strikes against the Taliban.

The aim was to persuade some Taliban factions to enter talks with the government in Kabul.

This month’s spate of bombings and Trump’s comments indicate that the end game may be further away than the White House would like.

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