Driven over the threshold: Political and armed forces dynamics on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border


Widespread and violent border clashes have created political tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This may occasionally marvel observers, since Afghanistan is being dominated by way of the Afghan Taliban, lengthy supported by way of Pakistan’s safety status quo. Contemporary incidents illustrate, on the other hand, that whilst the pursuits of Pakistan and its shoppers in Kabul would possibly continuously converge, they’re infrequently equivalent. Divergent political ideologies, nationwide histories, and strategic objectives are riding them aside on many the most important problems.

For the reason that Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, cross-border assaults on Pakistani safety forces have spiked, and the placement has deteriorated during the last few months. Pakistan’s fresh airstrikes inside of Afghan territory have simplest added gasoline to the hearth. In step with stories from the Afghan executive, on April 16, the Pakistani military performed drone moves within the border provinces of Kunar and Khost in jap Afghanistan in opposition to exiled Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists. Whilst the venture centered the TTP in retribution for its assassination of seven Pakistani infantrymen simply sooner or later prior, 47 Afghan civilians additionally misplaced their lives within the operation. The Taliban warned Islamabad of “penalties” for its “invasions,” whilst Pakistan chided the Taliban regime for giving sanctuary to anti-Pakistan militants. Reluctant to additional fray ties with the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan is but to take authentic duty for the airstrikes in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban’s go back to energy does now not appear to have pacified Kabul’s habits towards Islamabad. The Pakistani state, for its section, has failed to turn the management, political talent, and strategic creativeness vital to finish the cycle of jihadist violence. It will have dawned on Pakistan that one thing has long past horribly mistaken. May just this realization prompt some salutary soul-searching in Rawalpindi? Not likely. Despite the fact that it’s by no means too past due to proper route, Pakistan stays a garrison state with jihadist strands so deeply interwoven into the material of the military that teasing them out is close to inconceivable.

The TTP has used the border area as a secure haven, in opposition to which the Afghan Taliban regime has refused to take concrete motion regardless of Pakistan’s repeated requests. The Taliban’s incapability to ascertain a monopoly at the legit use of drive can be luring TTP combatants to Afghan soil. The TTP isn’t the one cross-border safety risk dealing with Pakistan; Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) and Baloch combatants also are hiding out in Afghanistan. In spite of those demanding situations, the Pakistan army is sticking to its conventional orientation wherein India is considered the main army risk. The military leader Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s makes an attempt at a geopolitical realignment — attainable counterterrorism cooperation with Washington and the pursuit of detente with India — appear to have foundered on Imran Khan’s reckless overseas coverage, anti-American nationalist rhetoric, and resolute refusal to vanish into political oblivion, in addition to India’s difficult stance in opposition to Pakistan.

For the reason that Afghan Taliban got here again to energy in Afghanistan final August, raids on Pakistani infantrymen have escalated inside of North and South Waziristan, exerting intense force at the safety equipment. In contrast background, Pakistan’s retaliatory airstrikes focused on militant sanctuaries inside of Afghanistan obviously underline Rawalpindi’s frustration with the Afghan Taliban’s inactiveness. Pakistan is hitting again as it doesn’t know what else to do. Even if Pakistan can act with little worry of repercussions, the query stays whether or not deadly drive will compel the Afghan Taliban to heed Pakistan’s calls for. On the contrary, retaliatory moves in opposition to the TTP secure havens may rather well harden the Taliban regime’s place.

Pakistan’s good fortune in serving to the Taliban to regain its grip on Afghanistan had made Rawalpindi assured of its talent to change into regional geopolitics extra extensively. However the go back of the Taliban in Afghanistan has simplest made issues worse for Pakistan’s safety status quo, as quite a lot of splinter factions of the TTP at the moment are reuniting. To know why the TTP moves such worry into the hearts of Pakistanis, one will have to needless to say the crowd’s bloodbath of 150 other people, most commonly youngsters, at a college in Peshawar in 2014 stays one of the crucial deadliest terror assaults within the nation’s historical past. In retaliation, the Pakistan army ruthlessly pursued the TTP, which critically undermined the crowd’s lethality and operational potency. The TTP now turns out higher arranged and provided, since a lot of its combatants, launched from Afghan jails after the U.S. withdrawal, are launching well-coordinated assaults into Pakistan.

The TTP condemned Pakistan’s bombardment of Afghan territory, pronouncing, “We problem the Pakistan military to struggle us at the battlefield as a substitute of bombing oppressed other people and refugee camps.” Grotesque despite the fact that the TTP is also, many of the fresh assaults in opposition to Pakistani forces in North Waziristan are the handiwork of Hafiz Gul Bahadur team, infamous for its shut linkages with al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Community. Pakistan’s army planners will have to be feeling trapped in a unnecessary, escalating contention with their erstwhile proxies in Kabul, who proportion many ideological affinities with teams difficult the imposition of sharia regulation in Pakistan. 

Tensions between the 2 nations come at a time when Pakistan is shouldering an incredible burden for its diplomatic popularity of the Afghan Taliban’s regime and for lifting financial sanctions in opposition to them. However Islamabad’s overtures appear to not have mollified the Afghan Taliban, as the exceptional problems between the 2 nations make it tough to create an atmosphere through which friendship may flourish.

Terrorist sanctuaries don’t seem to be the one bone of rivalry between the 2 nations. The Afghan Taliban really feel aggrieved by way of border fences built by way of Pakistan alongside the disputed Durand Line to curb unlawful cross-border motion, and feature been progressively dismantling them at quite a lot of puts. Pakistan’s efforts come with the development of border posts in addition to expanding the manpower of the Frontier Corps, Pakistan’s paramilitary drive guarding the border with Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban have made no secret in their need to deal with an open border for the sake of Pashtuns inhabiting the area. Despite the fact that earlier Afghan governments had chafed at Pakistani makes an attempt to erect fences, they’d now not made any critical efforts to prevent building. If the Afghan Taliban, in collaboration with the TTP, proceed to sabotage the fencing, it could simplest exacerbate bilateral tensions.

Given Pakistan’s awesome drive, Afghanistan will do its perfect to steer clear of direct armed war with its neighbor. In the meantime, Pakistan, which is lately dealing with financial crisis, political instability, and interior disunity, additionally does now not need a showdown with Afghanistan.  Pakistan may, on the other hand, be jolted into motion if Rawalpindi determines that not anything wanting an army operation may protected its targets at the different aspect of the Durand Line. Thus, open war is unbelievable however infrequently not possible. Even though the weapons stay silent, army brinkmanship may worsen diplomatic paralysis. Briefly, complete war answer thru bargaining and compromise turns out risk. The disputed border and terrorist sanctuaries stay Pakistan’s central dilemmas in Afghanistan; neither one lends itself to fast fixes.


Vinay Kaura, PhD, is a Non-Resident Student with MEI’s Afghanistan & Pakistan Program, an Assistant Professor within the Division of World Affairs and Safety Research on the Sardar Patel College of Police, Safety, and Legal Justice in Rajasthan, India, and the Deputy Director on the Middle for Peace and War Research. The perspectives expressed on this piece are his personal.

Picture by way of AFP by way of Getty Photographs



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