June 16, 2016
ISLAMABAD—NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan says it is concerned about recent military clashes between Afghan and Pakistani border forces, and is urging both countries to resolve differences through diplomatic negotiations.
Afghan and Pakistani forces have intermittently exchanged heavy gunfire since last Sunday, leaving at least four soldiers dead and more than 40 wounded. The shooting has, however, stopped since late Wednesday when the two sides declared a cease-fire.
Risk of escalation
The potential for escalation worries the mission, said the coalition spokesman in Kabul, U.S. Army Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, on Thursday.
“We continue to watch it very closely and we are concerned about it but believe, overall, that this has got to be a diplomatic negotiation,” he added.
On Wednesday, the Afghan parliament urged the U.S.-led military coalition to honor its bilateral security agreement with Kabul and come to the assistance of Afghan forces in the conflict with Pakistan.
Cleveland, however, said the coalition is not mandated to undertake such actions.
“From a Resolute Support standpoint, no. Again, remember our role is to conduct, train, advise and assist to help the Afghans as they are fighting the Taliban,” he said.
The conflict erupted after Pakistan began construction of a new gate at the busy Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan as part of its plans to strengthen border “management systems.” Kabul defended its military retaliation, saying the facility was being built in disputed territory.
Sartaj Aziz, a foreign policy adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, told the parliament on Thursday the government is determined to complete construction of the gate and other such facilities at all established crossing points to stop the infiltration of terrorists and militants across the 2,600-kilometer border with Afghanistan.
“This measure is also vital for our efforts to combat terrorism… It is also important to dispel the impression being created by Afghanistan that Pakistan was violating any bilateral agreement or understanding. In any case, undertaking any construction work on our side is the prerogative of the government of Pakistan,” Aziz said.
He told lawmakers he has discussed the issue with Afghanistan’s national security adviser by phone and invited him along with the Afghan foreign minister to visit Pakistan for further discussions.