ISLAMABAD — Two Pakistani soldiers were killed when a bomb went off during a military search operation in a tribal region near the border with Afghanistan, the military said Monday. The attack came as Afghan and Pakistan army chiefs met in neighboring Tajikistan.
A military statement said the Pakistani troops were conducting the search in the Angur Adda area, close to the border, when the bomb went off late on Sunday night.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump demanded that Pakistan shut down safe havens for the Afghan Taliban — a charge Islamabad dismissed, saying Pakistan has no safe havens for the Taliban. The demand came during Trump’s speech announcing a new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.
Pakistan has carried out several military operations against militants in South Waziristan and elsewhere in recent years. The army says it’s now clearing up remaining pockets in areas once used by militants as sanctuaries.
In a rare meeting, the Pakistani and Afghan army chiefs met on the sidelines of a regional conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Sunday, according to a Pakistani military statement.
Pakistan’s Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa proposed the formation of an Afghan-Pakistani working group so the two armies could jointly work and formulate security recommendations for their governments.
Bajwa reportedly reassured his Afghan counterpart, Gen. Sharif Yaftalin, that Islamabad is open to any suggestion that would facilitate peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan has already started unilateral border security measures, including erecting a fence, Bajwa added.
But Afghanistan did not seem enthusiastic about the proposal.
In Kabul, Gen. Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said militants along the border were not the only border issue with Pakistan but that the extremists have sanctuaries in big Pakistani cities as well.
“If Pakistan really wants to fight terrorism, first of all they should start fighting them (terrorists) in their big cities and then come down to the borders,” Waziri told The Associated Press.
Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.