Border fire from Afghanistan kills several Pakistani troops | News | DW | 27.10.2015
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Border fire from Afghanistan kills several Pakistani troops

Ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan remain tense as cross border firing killed at least seven Pakistani soldiers. It is not clear whether the troops were shot by Islamist militants or Afghan security forces.

The troops came under fire in the restive Waziristan area, where the Pakistani military has been fighting Islamist militants since June.

"Seven Frontiere Corps soldiers embraced martyrdom," said a military statement on Tuesday, adding that the heavy firing targeted an army checkpoint northeast of Angoor Adda in the South Waziristan tribal region.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but experts say that even if fire came from jihadists, the ties between Kabul and Islamabad are likely to worsen.

Both countries regularly blame each other for providing sanctuary to terrorists. The Afghan government also accuses Pakistan of backing Taliban insurgents, who earlier this month briefly captured the country's fifth-largest city, Kunduz.

Border commission

In 2012, Islamabad temporarily blocked NATO's supply routes in retaliation for a US airstrike in Salala near the Afghan border that resulted in the death of 24 of its soldiers.

A trilateral border commission comprised of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States was set up in 2011 to deal with border issues, but experts say it has not been very effective.

Tahir Khan, an expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan, told DW that what used to be a bilateral issue was increasingly becoming an international problem.

"Pakistan and Afghanistan do not have clear borders. This has always caused problems and the two countries have often accused each other of territorial violations. But of late, the number of such incidents has increased."

Intelligence cooperation

Unlike his predecessor Hamid Karzai, incumbent Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is more willing to resolve disputes with Pakistani authorities.

In May, the Afghan and Pakistani governments agreed to forge a partnership between their intelligence agencies - Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) – to better deal with Islamist militancy and border conflicts.

"It was definitely a step in the right direction," Mahmood Shah, a former Pakistani military officer and defense analyst, told DW. "Pakistan and Afghanistan will both benefit if the two organizations start to trust each other and share intelligence systematically," he added.


But in recent weeks, the situation in Kunduz has considerably changed the dynamics of the Afghan-Pakistani cooperation. According to various media reports, Pakistan-backed jihadists have been fighting against Afghan forces in northern Afghanistan, an allegation Islamabad denies.

Smoke billows from the scene of a suicide bomb blast that targeted a police headquarters in Kunduz, Afghanistan, 10 February 2015 (Photo: EPA/JAWED KARGER +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++)

The Taliban's military prowess in Kunduz caught everyone by surprise

"There is enough evidence that the supply lines for the Taliban and other extremist groups in northern Afghanistan pass through Pakistan. The Pakistani military is supporting different groups of the Taliban, Jamatud Dawa and 'Islamic State' in Afghanistan. The goal is to send Ghani's government packing once the US forces completely withdraw," Arif Jamal, a US-based journalist and author of several books on Islamic terrorism and Pakistan, told DW.

US President Barack Obama urged Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a meeting in Washington last week to work closely with the Afghan government to defeat the Taliban and other militant groups in the war-torn country.

But Jamal believes that Obama is naïve to expect that Islamabad would stop the use of jihadists as a way to increase its influence in Afghanistan. He also said the US was not pressuring Pakistani officials enough to make them rethink and revise their Afghanistan policies.

"The carrot alone is not working. The US must use the stick by imposing military and economic sanctions on Pakistan. As long as US aid keeps flowing to Islamabad, there will be no change in policy," he asserted.

Pakistan has received more than $20 billion (18 billion euros) in civilian and military aid from the US over the past 15 years.