Pakistan’s new Military Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa tells Afghan Leaders that he will work for Regional Peace

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FILE - Pakistan's Qamar Javed Bajwa attends a military exercise in Khairpur Tamiwali, Pakistan, Nov. 16, 2016. (VOA)

Pakistan’s new military chief spoke to Afghan leaders Saturday and promised to work for regional peace as mutual mistrust and suspicion continued to plague bilateral ties in the outgoing year.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa telephoned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and Bajwa’s Afghan counterpart, General Qadam Shah Shaheem, according to the Pakistan army’s media wing.

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It said that Bajwa “conveyed best wishes for 2017 and pledged to work for peace in the region,” adding that peace in both countries was in the “greater interest of the region.”

The Afghan leadership invited the Pakistan army chief for a visit to Afghanistan, the statement said, but did not mention any dates or other details for the proposed visit.

The Kabul government alleges that covert support the Taliban receives from Pakistan’s military and its spy agency has enabled the insurgent group to prolong and expand its activities in Afghanistan.

Islamabad denies the charges, calling them an attempt to deflect attention from political controversies plaguing the Afghan national unity government and “deteriorating security situation” in the neighboring country.

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In a separate statement Saturday, the army also released latest casualty tolls for its counter militancy operations in volatile northwestern tribal areas on the Afghan border and elsewhere in Pakistan.

The military-led Zarb-e-Azb offensive has killed more than 3,500 terrorists since it was launched in June 2014, while around 600 soldiers have also died and more than 2,000 have been wounded, according to the statement.

Afghan officials say that militants fleeing the offensive have crossed to their side of the porous border, adding to the security challenges facing conflict-torn Afghanistan.(VOA)