Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Afghanistan, Pakistan in unreported border war

According to UN Dispatch, there is an “undeclared and intensifying border war” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the past month, shells coming from the Pakistani side of the border have forced thousands of people from their homes in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar and Nangarhar provinces.

While it has long been known that events on the Pakistani side of the border influence what happens in Afghanistan, reports of Pakistani soldiers crossing the border in raids against Afghan militants have increased in recent months, and public anger towards Pakistan is rising in Afghanistan.

While Pakistan has denied the shelling of Afghan territory, saying its troops may have fired a few accidental rounds while pursuing Afghan militants, its role in Afghanistan is murky.

Pakistan was a key ally of the Taliban until joining the US-led “war on terror” in 2001 and many have accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) of continuing to train the Taliban and tacitly or actively supporting Afghan insurgents.

While Pakistani officials point out that it has 140,000 troops in the northwest fighting a Pakistani Taliban insurgency, it is undeniable that rebel safe havens remain, primarily in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“When Pakistan says it will crack down on them [Taliban fighters], it is just pretending. The Pakistan government protects them,” says Wali Shah, an Afghan district governor.

“Pakistan doesn't want the violence here to stop. It doesn't want Afghanistan to develop,” he told AFP.

Pakistan has recently launched a military offensive against insurgents in the Kurram tribal region, according to the BBC. The area is near the Afghan border, and is thought to hold a large number of militants who have fled another military operation in Orakzai.

NATO forces, who have primarily concentrated in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan, are aware that the focus will have to change.

The outgoing commander of US and NATO forces, General David Petraeus said on Monday, 4th July, that by autumn, more special forces, intelligence, surveillance and air power will be concentrated in areas along Afghanistan's porous border with Pakistan in the east of the country.

The attacks do not just go one way, however, and Pakistan's government rebuked the Afghan government for allowing Afghan militant groups to “terrorize Pakistani villages and attack Pakistani soldiers”, according to UN Dispatch.

In early June, for example, hundreds of militants from Kunar crossed the border and attacked a village in Pakistan. The incursion triggered a two day battle that left 66 people dead.

For Afghan civilians living in border regions, the situation seems to be deteriorating. Afghan scholar Orzala Ashraf Nemat wrote in a recent essay for the Guardian of his fears for the region.

“The greatest concern for people in this region is the increase in rocket attacks from the Pakistani border side, which continues to take the lives of ordinary villagers over the past months. We are worried about a direct invasion by Pakistani forces, even as the world is watching.”

Throughout June, death tolls rose in Afghanistan as Pakistani strikes continued. On 28th June, the eastern regional commander of the Afghan Border Police, Aminullah Amarkhel, said artillery shells launched from Pakistan into Kunar the day before had killed 20 civilians.

While this figure has not been verified, if true, it would make the attack the single deadliest incident in the low-level border conflict to date.

The government in Kabul is also starting to pay attention to what is happening along its border.

In late June, Afghan president Hamid Karzai warned Pakistan to cease strikes against Afghan territory and parliamentarians demanded that their government authorise military action against Pakistan if the shelling continues.

The border situation presents the possibility of full-on war breaking out between Afghanistan and Pakistan. With both sides resisting admitting and solving the problem of cross-border militancy, what UN Dispatch calls an 'undeclared border war' could continue to escalate indefinitely.

Sources: BBC News, Express Tribune, Sydney Morning Herald, UN Dispatch

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

No comments:

Post a Comment