Afghan Taliban stop
Pak troops from fencing
border, say it illegal

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KABUL: Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan disrupted the erecting of a security fence by the Pakistani military along the border between the two countries, Afghan officials said on Wednesday.

Pakistan has fenced most of the 2,600km border des­pite protestations from Kabul, which has contested the British-era boundary demarcation that splits families and tribes on either side.

In 2017 Pakistan begun building a fence along its border with Afghanistan to curtail the movement of militants, its army said, in a move criticised by its eastern neighbour for dividing communities.

The two nations are divided by the “Durand Line”, a 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) frontier drawn by the British in 1896 and disputed by Kabul, which does not officially recognise it as an international border. It also splits the Pashtun ethnic group between the states.

Both routinely accuse the other of harbouring militant proxies to carry out cross-border attacks, while their militaries have engaged in numerous skirmishes in recent years.

Pakistani soldiers stand guard at a fence between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Angore Adda, Pakistan, Oct. 18, 2017.

In 2016, Pakistan completed an 1,100 kilometre (700 mile) trench along the southern half of the border. The current round of fencing began in the northern tribal regions of Mohmand and Bajaur over the weekend, according to the army.

Afghan defence ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khwarazmi said Taliban forces stopped the Pakistani military from erecting what he called an “illegal” border fence along the eastern province of Nangarhar on Sunday.

He played down the incident, saying everything was now normal. The Pakistan army did not respond to a request for comment.

A video circulated on social media showed Taliban soldiers had seized spools of barbed wire and one senior official asking Pakistani soldiers stationed in security posts in the distance not to try to fence the border again.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said they were investigating the incident.

Taliban and Pakistani forces came face-to-face over the border incident, two Taliban officials said on condition of anonymity, and the situation was tense.

They added that following the incident there was cross-border mortar fire from Pakistani territory further north along the frontier into Afghanistan’s Kunar province on Wednesday.

Pakistani soldiers busy in erecting the fence along Afghan border

It was unclear if the incidents are linked. The officials said Afghan military helicopters could be seen patrolling the area.

The fencing was a main reason behind the souring of relations between previous US-backed Afghan governments and Islamabad. The current standoff indicates the issue remains a contentious matter for the Taliban, despite its close ties to Islamabad.

Foreign governments have long alleged that Pakistan supported the insurgent movement as it fought the US-backed government and Western troops — a charge Islamabad denies.

The lawless mountainous border was historically fluid before Pakistan began erecting a metal fence four years ago, of which it has completed 90 per cent.

The border incident happened the day foreign delegates from around the world gathered in Islamabad for a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.

US report on activities of IS-K is based in Afghanistan

The group known as Islamic State-Khorasan, or IS-K, “is based in Afghanistan, conducts operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is composed primarily of former members of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan”, according to the latest US report on terrorism released this week.

The US State Department’s annual report estimates that IS-K still has about 1,000 fighters who operate from Afghanistan. The report describes the group’s areas of operation as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his address at the OIC meeting in Islamabad on Sunday that IS-K was using its Afghan cell for launching attacks into Pakistan.

A file picture of ISIS-K militants reportedly based in Afghanistan

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, however, countered his argument by alleging that the group was using Pakistani soil for launching attacks into Afghanistan.

The US report, however, upheld Pakistan’s position, clearly stating that IS-K “is based in Afghanistan”, although it recruits militants from Pakistan’s tribal areas. According to the State Department’s report, IS-K receives some funding from its parent organisation, the militant Islamic State group (IS). Additional funds come from “illicit criminal commerce, taxes and extortion”, the report added.

The IS-K’s leadership pledged allegiance to the deceased IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. This was accepted in 2015.

The US report pointed out that the group had carried out suicide bombings, small arms attacks, and kidnappings in Afghanistan against civilians and Afghan forces. The group has also claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians and government officials in Pakistan.

No differentiation

Details of IS-K’s activities in the US report show that the group does not differentiate between Pakistan and Afghanistan while launching terrorist attacks.

It regularly targeted civilians, armed forces personnel and even schools and places of worship in both countries.

In 2016, IS-K attacked a Pakistani consulate in Afghanistan, killing seven Afghan security personnel; bombed a peaceful protest in Kabul, killing an estimated 80 people; claimed a shooting and suicide bombing at a hospital in Quetta, killing 94; and bombed a shrine in Balochistan, killing over 50 people.

In 2017, the militant outfit attacked the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, killing two people; bombed a mosque in western Afghanistan, killing 29 people; claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing at a Shia neighbourhood in Kabul, leaving more than 20 dead; attacked a Sufi shrine in Sindh, killing 88 people; and attacked an election rally in Balochistan that killed 149 people.

In 2019, IS-K claimed responsibility for an attack at the ministry of communications in Kabul, killing seven people. The group also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a wedding hall in Kabul that year, killing 80 people.

Later that year, IS-K bombed a mosque in Nangarhar and killed 70 people.

In 2019, the IS faction suffered a series of major defeats and lost much of its territory in Nangarhar in the face of attacks by both the Defeat-IS Coalition and Taliban forces.