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Pakistan says it will fence, mine parts of Afghan border to stop militants

Pakistan says it will fence, mine parts of Afghan border to stop militants

Pakistan said Tuesday it will fence and mine parts of its long, rugged frontier with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border raids by Taliban and al-Qaida militants, and stave off criticism that it is doing little to stop the bloody insurgency.
The announcement came amid deteriorating relations between the neighbors _ major U.S. allies in Washington's war on terror _ over Afghan and NATO accusations that resurgent militants are operating from sanctuaries in Pakistan.
Pakistan will also deploy additional troops at the frontier, Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan told reporters, without indicating how many. It currently has about 80,000 forces in its northwestern tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
"In keeping with our policy to prevent any militant activity from Pakistan inside Afghanistan, the Pakistan army has been tasked to work out modalities for selectively fencing and mining the Pakistan-Afghanistan border," Khan, the ministry's top career official, said.
Afghanistan quickly rejected the border plan, although Khan said Pakistan would be acting on its own soil, and didn't need Afghan consent.
"Fencing or mining the border is neither helpful nor practical. That's why we are against it. The border is not where the problem lies," said Khaleeq Ahmed, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
In increasingly outspoken terms, Karzai has accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban militia that it once backed but formally abandoned after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.
During 2006, militants have stepped up attacks, triggering the worst upsurge in violence since the hardline regime's ouster five years ago, threatening the shaky rule of Karzai, Afghanistan's first popularly elected president.
Afghanistan disputes its 2,430-kilometer (1,510-mile) border with Pakistan, known as the Durand Line, that was imposed by Britain during its colonial rule of the subcontinent a century ago. It has rejected previous offers from Islamabad to fence and mine it.
The frontier region is inhabited on both sides by Pashtun tribespeople with strong family and clan ties who travel freely across the border. The planned Pakistani measure is also likely to raise concern among anti-land mine activists.
Afghanistan is one of the world's worst affected countries, with land mines killing and maiming thousands of civilians during past decades of wars.
Khan said that Pakistan was aware of global concern over their use, but added the country is not a signatory of the Ottawa Treaty that bans their planting.
"There is an extraordinary situation and we need extraordinary measures to respond to this," he said.
He did not say how much or exactly where the poorly demarcated border would be fenced, nor when the fencing would start. He said Pakistan's army was working out the details.
Talat Masood, a former Pakistani general and now a prominent military analyst, said that Pakistan was getting "very frustrated" by accusations from Afghanistan and its NATO allies that it is doing little to prevent the cross-border insurgency.
Pakistan "wants to take such measures, but it's not that easy to define the areas of cross-border insurgency and mine them," Masood said. "It would be a huge undertaking. The problem is demarcation of the border as well."
"When you mine a border between two countries, it shows that their relations are tense," Masood said. "Between two friendly countries, there should be no mined borders."
Khan said that Pakistan will also "strictly monitor" Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, following claims by Afghan officials that the camps provide sanctuaries for Taliban militants.
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Associated Press writer Jason Straziuso in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Sadaqat Jan in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-01-23 03:45 GMT+08:00