Pakistan army chief visits Kabul after school attack

Pakistani army soldiers gather at the army run school a day after an attack by Taliban militants in Peshawar on Dec 17, 2014. Pakistan's powerful army chief, General Raheel Sharif, visited Kabul on Wednesday for talks with Afghanistan's presiden
Pakistani army soldiers gather at the army run school a day after an attack by Taliban militants in Peshawar on Dec 17, 2014. Pakistan's powerful army chief, General Raheel Sharif, visited Kabul on Wednesday for talks with Afghanistan's president on tackling insurgents, a day after the attack which left 148 people dead. -- PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP) - Pakistan's powerful army chief General Raheel Sharif visited Kabul on Wednesday for talks with Afghanistan's president on tackling insurgents, a day after Taleban militants killed 148 people at a Pakistani school.

Sharif, accompanied by the head of Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the ISI, was due to meet President Ashraf Ghani and Nato commander General John Campbell, officials said.

Afghanistan routinely accuses Pakistan of providing shelter within its borders to the Afghan Taleban, while Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of protecting members of the Pakistani Taleban.

The army chief was likely to raise this issue with Afghan leaders, a Pakistani security official said. The handing over of Pakistani Taleban chief Mullah Fazlullah, who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, may also figure at the talks.

Analysts said the visit was intended to further cooperation against militant groups along the countries' border.

"The army chief is obviously interested that Fazlullah and his group is arrested and handed over to Pakistan or eliminated so that they do not use Afghan territory for launching attacks," retired Pakistani general and security analyst Talat Masood told AFP.

"General Sharif wants to strengthen military-to-military and intelligence-to-intelligence level cooperation between the two countries." But retired Afghan general Atiqullah Amarkhail dismissed the trip as an attempt to distract attention from the failure to prevent the attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

"The trip is no more than a manoeuvre by the Pakistanis to pressure the Afghan government and pretend those responsible for the deadly Peshawar attack are based in Afghan soil," said Amarkhail.

Pakistan's army and intelligence services are widely seen as the driving force behind the country's defence and foreign policies.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have vowed in recent months to improve tense ties.

Afghanistan is facing its own surge in violence as US-led Nato troops pull out by the end of the year and are replaced by a 12,500-strong support mission tasked with advising and assisting the Afghan security forces.

Recent deadly attacks have targeted army buses, mine clearance teams and foreign compounds in Kabul.