April 6, 2018 / 4:03 PM / 18 days ago

RPT-Afghan, Pakistani leaders meet after air strike allegation

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By Rod Nickel

KABUL, April 6 (Reuters) - The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan promised to work together on regional security in a face-to-face meeting on Friday, one day after Kabul accused the Pakistani military of carrying out a rare air strike on its side of the border.

Afghanistan on Thursday accused Pakistan of strikes causing “huge financial damages” in a province bordering Pakistan. Pakistan responded that its security forces were countering Afghan-based militant groups on its own side of the border.

The row highlighted long-standing mistrust between the neighbours that centres on mutual accusations that the other country does not adequately prevent cross-border militant attacks.

But Friday’s previously scheduled visit by Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul included “cordial and friendly” talks, Abbasi’s office said in a statement.

It said the leaders agreed on a common aim of regional security.

Ghani, in a statement, said he raised the issue of border violations with Abbasi and stressed that the situation was not helpful to either side.

A day earlier, Afghanistan alleged that Pakistan jets had dropped four bombs in the Afghan border province of Kunar, and warned that such strikes could damage relations.

Such an incident is a rare departure from the norm of cross-border shelling, said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of Afghanistan Analysts Network. But Ruttig said it did not appear to damage relations greatly, since Ghani did not cancel the meeting.

The strikes did not cause any deaths or injuries, said Faridullah Dehqan, spokesman for Kunar police.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has long accused Pakistan of harbouring Afghan Taliban insurgents, a charge that Islamabad denies.

Islamabad, in turn, accuses Afghanistan of not doing enough to eradicate Pakistani Taliban militants, many of whom are based in Afghanistan and mostly carry out attacks inside Pakistan. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Kabul; additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul, Ahmad Sultan in Jalalabad and Kay Johnson in Islamabad, Editing by William Maclean)

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