Pakistan: Islamabad Constructing Fence Along Afghan Border

A Pashtun man passes a road sign while pulling supplies towards the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing in Chaman November 28, 2011. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed/Files
REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed/Files

Pakistan’s announcement that it is already constructing a fence along its mutual border with Afghanistan has provoked the ire of Kabul.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said Afghanistan would not stand idly by if Pakistan moves forward with its effort to build a border barrier, noting that so far, there is no evidence of such a move.

Danish has expressed disapproval of a border wall, saying, “Building fences or any construction is not acceptable for us and we won’t allow anyone to do it,” reports the Associated Press (AP).

The Afghan official’s remarks came in response to Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the head of Pakistan’s military, announcing on Saturday that Islamabad is in the midst of constructing fencing in “high-threat zones,” notes Reuters.

Gen. Bajwa’s remarks came during his visit to the volatile tribal regions along the Af-Pak border, where he said both countries would benefit from a barrier.

Pakistan says it already “started building a fence along the Afghan border in areas where it says militants have launched cross-border attacks, a move that could worsen tensions with Afghanistan, which has never accepted the colonial-era frontier,” points out AP.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have long accused one another of backing terrorism.

While Kabul accuses its neighbor of serving as a sanctuary for terrorists fighting against U.S.-led coalition forces on Afghan soil, Islamabad accuses Afghanistan of providing safe haven to terrorists who carry out attacks in Pakistan.

An Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked massacre on Pakistani soil this year that killed nearly 90 people and injured hundreds of others prompted Islamabad to close its border crossings with Afghanistan and further escalated tensions between the two countries.

The U.S. military has identified the ISIS stronghold in the region as Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which sits on the country’s border with Pakistan, allowing the jihadists to operate in both countries.

Afghanistan and Pakistan share an estimated 1,500-mile border, nearly the size of the boundary that divides Texas and Mexico.

Amid intensifying confrontations between Afghan and Pakistani border guards last year, Islamabad stressed that Afghan refugee camps on its side of the international boundary are serving as “safe havens for terrorists” due to the unfettered movement of people from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

Sporadic clashes along the Af-Pak border have since continued. In June of last year, the Pakistani military pounded Afghan border forces, killing at least two people and wounding nearly 25 others.

Already this year, tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan are rapidly intensifying as Pakistan blames Afghanistan for a recent surge in terror attacks.

Pakistan has been combating Taliban militants hiding in the tribal region (FATA) between Pakistan and Afghanistan for some years.

This month, Pakistan’s military conceded that its troops engaged terrorists in the tribal region near the Afghan border.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military, primarily using drones, has ventured into Pakistani soil in search of terrorists on various occasions, rarely at the invitation of Islamabad.

The former Afghan Taliban leader met his demise in Pakistan at the hands of a U.S. airstrike near the Afghan border.

In a much higher profile operation, the U.S. military killed the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden less than a mile from Pakistan’s elite military academy.

More recently, a U.S. airstrike killed Qari Yasin, a Pakistani al-Qaeda leader with ties to the Pakistani Taliban, in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, which sits adjacent to the country’s border with Pakistan.

According to the U.S. military, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is home to the largest concentration of internationally recognized terrorist groups — 13 in Afghanistan and seven in Pakistan.