Afghan Taliban officials claimed that a planned trip by a Pakistan Army delegation to Kandahar on Sunday was cancelled in apparent protest over reported cross-border strikes by Pakistan targeting terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan.

There was no word from the Pakistani side either on the reported airstrikes or the visit of its delegation to Kandahar.

The foreign office had no knowledge of both developments, while the military’s media wing didn’t respond until the filing of this report.

However, reports suggest that the Pakistan Army delegation, comprising mid-level officials, was to travel to Kandahar on Sunday as part of efforts by both sides to resolve the issue of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Delegation was to meet Governor of Kandahar

The delegation was to meet Mullah Shirin Akhund, the Governor of Kandahar, and the deputy head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. Shirin is also considered close to Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada. He was one of the key members of the Taliban team that helped broker talks between Pakistan and the TTP.

Mullah Shirin is a key interlocutor of the Afghan Taliban trying to defuse tensions with Pakistan over the TTP. He travelled to Islamabad earlier this year to address Pakistan’s concerns.The planned trip was believed to be a follow-up to those efforts to find a solution to the TTP problem.

The visit, however, was cancelled by the Afghan Taliban. There were reports, and some Afghan journalists claimed that Pakistan carried out fresh airstrikes in the Paktika province of Afghanistan on Friday, killing certain TTP terrorists.

Pakistan never confirmed those attacks, although it publicly acknowledged carrying out several cross-border attacks on March 18.

An Afghan media outlet claimed it obtained information that the Taliban had cancelled a scheduled trip of a Pakistan Army delegation to Kandahar in response to reported recent air and missile strikes by Pakistan in Paktika province.

Cancellation attributed to weather condition

Originally, the delegation was to travel from Rawalpindi to Kandahar on Sunday, the Afghan International report said. The cancellation by the Taliban was officially attributed to “weather conditions,” although it is widely believed that the real reason was the airstrikes on Paktika that occurred on Thursday. The specifics of the attack and any casualties remain undisclosed.

Previously, an Afghanistan media house had accessed a document indicating that Pakistan had detailed the aircraft, flight times, and arrival information to the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs through an official letter sent to Kabul.

As of now, the Taliban has not issued an official statement regarding the Pakistan Air Force’s attacks on Paktika or the reasons behind the cancellation of the Pakistani delegation’s trip.

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