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What's Behind Strained Relations Between Afghanistan and Pakistan?

© AP Photo / Anjum NaveedPakistan Army troops patrol along the fence on the Pakistan Afghanistan border at Big Ben hilltop post in Khyber district, Pakistan, Aug. 3, 2021.
Pakistan Army troops patrol along the fence on the Pakistan Afghanistan border at Big Ben hilltop post in Khyber district, Pakistan, Aug. 3, 2021. - Sputnik India, 1920, 20.03.2024
The recent trigger in sour relations was the early morning attacks on Monday from Pakistan which were aimed at hideouts of armed groups including the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Monday's airstrikes came just two days after a ghastly suicide bombing hit a Pakistani army post near the Afghan border in North Waziristan. A suicide bomber had run a truck filled with explosives into a military checkpoint, killing seven soldiers.
There have been conflicting reports about the casualties: While Pakistan claims to have targeted militants in the airstrikes, Kabul said those killed were allegedly women and children.
Pakistan holds the Afghan Taliban* responsible for the uptick in terror attacks, insisting Kabul has been providing a safe haven for militants.
The Afghan Taliban, who have ruled Afghanistan since taking over in August 2021, reacted swiftly to the Pakistani attacks, calling them "reckless". Just hours after the air raids, the Afghan military fired mortar shells on Pakistani military positions near border districts, which left four civilians and three soldiers injured.
This back and forth attacks, killings of army personnel and civilians is giving rise to a new uncertainty in the ties between the two nations.

Porous Border is Source of Terrorism in Pakistan

The official government statement from Pakistan stated that "terrorist groups like TTP**(Pakistani Taliban) are a collective threat to regional peace and security".
However, the Afghan Taliban government spokesperson denied that foreign armed groups are allowed to operate from Afghan soil. But even the Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid could not deny that the Taliban may not have the whole border region under its control.
"One thing we must accept is that Afghanistan shares a very long border area with Pakistan, and there are places with rugged terrain including mountains and forests, and places that might be out of our control," the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials operating in the border regions said that in light of recent developments, announcements have been made in mosques to empty some areas in Kurram and North Waziristan as clashes and growing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan continue at the border.
The recent events have raised questions about the future of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. The possibility of retaliatory attacks and the escalating tensions could potentially lead to a further strain in their relationship and a larger military conflict in the region.

Pakistan and Afghanistan Bound for Bad Blood for Years Ahead

A retired senior military official in Pakistan Armed Forces, Khalid Shikari, told Sputnik that Pakistan is unlikely to enjoy any improvement in ties with Afghanistan in the near future.

"The bilateral relations deteriorated after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, as the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) increased terrorist attacks inside Pakistan following the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. Last year was one of the deadliest for Pakistan in terms of terror attacks as over 1,000 Pakistanis were killed," the military official said.

The report by the Islamabad-based independent Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) confirmed this statistics, reporting that terrorist attacks killed around 500 civilians and a similar number of security forces in 2023, the highest number of fatalities the country has experienced in six years.
Northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwestern Balochistan provinces bordering Afghanistan accounted for most of the terror attacks and the resulting casualties.

"Pakistan has repeatedly demanded for the Taliban government to ensure effective border management on their side of the shared 2,600-kilometer frontier between the two countries, but so far, as we can see, the situation has not been brought under control," Shikari said.

Following the upsurge in the attacks, in October 2023 Islamabad decided to expel illegal Afghan nationals staying in Pakistan. The authorities claimed that some of these illegal migrants were found involved in the recent terror attacks. The decision was deemed controversial by many analysts and human rights watchdogs, although in legal terms Pakistan had the right to do so.
© AP Photo / Ebrahim NorooziAfghan refugees
Afghan refugees  - Sputnik India, 1920, 20.03.2024
Afghan refugees
According to Shikari the decision further "damaged the goodwill that some Afghans had for Pakistan" and moreover, it is unlikely to resolve the problem of terrorism, primarily because of the porous border.
The Afghan Taliban, meanwhile, is dealing with serious food scarcity and the economic crisis under international sanctions.
Hence, taking care of the Afghans returning from Pakistan would increase that challenge as more than half a million Afghans from Pakistan returned to their home country last year to face dire living conditions. The Taliban had reacted strongly, calling Pakistan’s decision "unacceptable."

"All these recent factors and decisions made by both sides have resulted in souring of the relations between the two nations. Now tensions between Islamabad and Kabul will rise even further if the TTP continues to carry out attacks inside Pakistan, leading to more complications. Both the governments need to quickly de-escalate the situation and work together to eradicate terrorism, rather than blaming one another," the official concluded.

A Pakistani Air Force F-16 fighter jet flies during a military parade to mark Pakistan's Republic Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, March 23, 2017. - Sputnik India, 1920, 18.03.2024
Defense News
Pakistan Air Force Conducts Air Strikes on TTP Hideouts Inside Afghanistan: Reports
*under UN sanctions
** terror outfit banned in Russia and other states
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