June 24, 2018
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s military says Afghanistan-based “terrorists” on Sunday ambushed one of its border fencing teams and killed a soldier.
The fatal cross-border raid in the treacherous North Waziristan region also injured a junior officer, said army spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor.
“Another son of soil sacrificed his life while making Pakistan-Afghanistan border safe and inaccessible for terrorists,” said the army spokesman. We shall, Inshallah [God willing], complete fencing undeterred. Afghanistan’s cooperation is required in mutual interest,” the general emphasized.
Pakistan unilaterally began the military-led fencing of the nearly 2,600-kilometer Afghan border more than a year ago in a bid to block terrorist infiltration in either direction.
In a statement prior to Sunday’s attack, Ghafoor noted that cross-border terrorist raids on construction teams have claimed the lives of seven soldiers and wounded nearly 40 others.
Officials say militants led by the Pakistani Taliban have established bases in “ungoverned” Afghan border areas after fleeing Pakistani counterterrorism operations and orchestrate terrorist attacks from those sanctuaries.
Within the past four months “terrorists” have staged nearly 200 cross-border “fire and physical incursions,” but the military is “absolutely determined” not to slow down the effort of fencing building new forts, Ghafoor vowed.
“Because we understand that a secure border is in the interest of not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan also,” Ghafoor said, though he acknowledged Afghan security forces on the other side of the border still face capacity and manpower issues.
Afghan border reservations
Afghanistan historically disputes the 1893 boundary line during the British colonial rule and Kabul has publicly opposed the Pakistani border security plan of what Afghans still refer to as the Durand Line.
But Islamabad vehemently rejects Afghan objections and maintains the country inherited the international border when Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947.
Ghafoor asserts the demarcation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is “undoubtedly” an internationally recognized border and even the United States has officially said so.
U.S. stance on Durand Line
Afghan and U.S. officials allege the Afghan Taliban uses sanctuaries on Pakistani soil to stage attacks inside Afghanistan. Islamabad rejects the charges and believes its border management plan will ultimately help address the mutual concerns.
The border controversy also surfaced during a U.S.Congressional hearing last week in Washington.
Congressmen Brad Sherman sought from the State Department diplomat for the region, Alice Wells, to explain whether the United States recognizes the Durand Line as an international boundary.
“The Durand Line serves as an international boundary …That is how we approach the Durand Line, yes …,” Wells explained in rare remarks on the issue during her testimony. She also noted that Washington recognizes the “Afghan sensitivities” associated with the issue.
“But we believe that the border management is going to be best done when we have the countries working together,” Wells added.