Afghan district governor accuses Pakistan of stoking war on border

By AFP
Published: July 1, 2011

fghan Border police aims his AK-47 rifle towards the Gorbuz highway from a guarding tower as he monitors trucks loaded with goods coming from Pakistan's border to Khost province. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL: At the last military post before the Pakistan border, Afghan district governor Wali Shah explains why the insurgents seem untouchable. “The Pakistan government protects them,” he said.

Shah has daily experience of a key problem threatening any future peace deal in Afghanistan, namely that Taliban rebels fighting US troops and the Kabul government live and operate in safety from Pakistan.

“When Pakistan says it will crack down on them, it is just pretending,” he told AFP at Bowri Tana, a US and Afghan army post in the eastern province of Khost, 11 kilometres (seven miles) from the border.

“The Taliban are trained by the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency) and come into Afghanistan to launch attacks. Pakistan doesn’t want the violence here to stop. It doesn’t want Afghanistan to develop.”

For years, Afghans and Pakistanis have traded accusations of blame over the insurgents who pose a threat to security in both countries and seemingly criss-cross the porous border with impunity.

Pakistan was a key ally of the Taliban until joining the US-led “war on terror” after the September 11, 2001 attacks but has been accused by friend and foe alike of tacitly or, worse still, actively supporting Afghan insurgents.

Officials vigorously deny the allegations and point out there are 140,000 Pakistani troops committed in the northwest fighting a Pakistani Taliban insurgency — leaving them too overstretched to do more.

But rebel safe havens in Pakistan infuriate Afghan President Hamid Karzai and remain a major obstacle to peace as the United States prepares to start withdrawing 33,000 troops by the end of summer 2012.

A diplomatic spat has also flared recently amid accusations from Kabul that Pakistani rocket attacks have killed dozens this month. The Afghan government says this may damage “improving trust and cooperation” between the two.

Pakistan says its security forces may have fired only a few accidental rounds while pursuing militants but also claims that insurgents from Afghanistan have crossed the border to attack security checkpoints.

Lieutenant Colonel Jesse Pearson, US commander along 120 kilometres of the border in Khost, does not duck the issue of Pakistan sheltering the Taliban and other groups such as the Haqqani network.

“Most attacks are commanded from Miranshah (in Pakistan),” he said during a meeting this week with Shah at Bowri Tana. “That is frustrating as we want to go after the enemy but we can’t go across the border.

“Despite their advantage, it doesn’t mean that we can’t win. Indeed, it is clear to me that we are winning this war.”

Pearson said he believed Afghanistan was reaching a “tipping point where the people reject terrorists and look to the government to provide a brighter future for their children.”

Many Afghans are not so sure as 10 years after the fall of the Taliban regime, US President Barack Obama starts to cut troop numbers ahead of a 2014 deadline for all coalition combat forces to leave the country.

“If I am honest, things were better between 2001 and 2005 than today,” said Shah, the governor of Khost’s Gorbuz district. “I don’t believe we can handle security by ourselves. Improvements are being made, but 2014? We will see.”

US military officers in Khost admit that Afghan security forces are below standard and that Taliban infiltrators exist within the ranks who live and work with US troops.

“All ANSF (Afghan national security forces) are penetrated to some level,” said Pearson after one IED was found near Bowri Tana in a spot that suggested inside knowledge of gaps in the military’s surveillance capability.

“Senior police and army leaders know the issue, and are ready to compartmentalise operations so that not all their men have access to all information.”

For district governor Shah, the best hope lies in increasing cross-border commerce which he believes would bring greater wealth to the area, as well as stability.

His district includes Ghulam Khan Gate, a road crossing similar to the famous Khyber Pass between northwest Pakistan and Kabul.

“The road is going to be improved and a new customs house will be built. We want to boost traffic from 80-100 trucks a day to 1,000,” he said.

“I am optimistic we can hit that target within two years. It would change a lot of things.”

Reader Comments (10)

  • Reality
    Jul 1, 2011 - 11:43AM

    what about twice cross border Militant attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan side….???Recommend

  • BruteForce
    Jul 1, 2011 - 11:54AM

    So will the right-wingers in Pakistan and its establishment finally listen and let Afghanistan be?

    They are so hypocritical that they ask India to not think of itself as a Regional player but at the same time tries to dominate in Afghanistan. Recommend

  • Jul 1, 2011 - 1:27PM

    @Reality:
    Sarcastic username? Just because one side does it doesn’t make it right for the other side. If you’re dirty, you’re dirty. I’m not saying those going into Pakistan are good or should be excused. But, what you said is a deflection, not denial or justification that it happens. Very child-like mentality.Recommend

  • PalanKhan
    Jul 1, 2011 - 5:02PM

    If Pak military has guts, then it can come staright to straight. Afghan people are ready to defend themselves..Recommend

  • Dianuj Rafaz Nahk
    Jul 1, 2011 - 6:24PM

    @PalanKhan

    Afghan people in their own are enough to kill each other so pak millitary doesent need those guts.

    And On a side note , ‘grow-up’Recommend

  • Shahid Afridi
    Jul 1, 2011 - 7:09PM

    @PalanKhan….defend themselves? How? You have no sea access, no air force and an extremely weak land army. How are you going to defend yourselves? With Taliban-era rocket launchers? LOLRecommend

  • Ali
    Jul 1, 2011 - 8:15PM

    @BruteForce

    Its Politics Mate, you need to grow up.

    and btw

    Afghans themselves don’t let other Afghans be, so you know…Recommend

  • omar
    Jul 1, 2011 - 11:00PM

    @PalanKhan: first get the british out of your land, than consider Pakistan.
    Pakistan is a nulcear armed nation that has defeated India, we can throw a nuke and finish your country off in a day if we use our nukes, and s Nakh said grow up.
    Get forigners off your land, we havent invaded us,
    FIGHT THE ONES THAT ARE DEFEATING U!!
    DONT PROVOKE US, WHENEVER WE HAVE BEEN PROOKED, RESULTS ARE CLEAR, 1965!!Recommend

  • humza
    Jul 2, 2011 - 12:40AM

    Prosperity in Pakistan is only possible through stabilized Afghanistan. Unfortunately Afghnistan was never been stable or at peace for which Pakistan suffered ; refugees, smuggling, narcotics and a hide of all criminals who run away from Pakistan.
    Talibans represent Pashtoons (who are 47% of population). How can they be eliminated? and how Pakistan should favour other faction and forget about Pashtoons. The solution lies in giving opportunities to each faction as per percentage of their population and Pakistan does not want imbalance in that. Because imbalance will always keep insurgencies and troubles in Afghanistan and thus would also harm Pakistan. Americans want to make that imbalance by giving more representations to Northern alliance so that the imbalance should remain there for trouble in the region; trade route to central asian states should be operational, trouble in Balochistan would not allow the advantages of Gawadar port to the region especially China and many more.
    Its high time to wake up and stop fighting and blaming each other. Pakistan and Afghanistan are real brothers, they should find a possible way to peace and stabilization by helping each other and curb the menace of terrorism not only through military but also through dialogues and justiceRecommend

  • Jawid
    Jul 2, 2011 - 12:18PM

    This pakistan is not going to be a good nieghbore for any country, India, Iran and Afghanistan none of these countries are happy from what pakistan is doing, insurgency is in nature of Pakistan government, trainning, providing and sending insurgents and rebels to other countries this is what Pakistan government is doing. God bless them and direct them to the right way.
    @ Huzma, she is saying that Afghanistan was never stable if Pakistan let Afghanistan it will be Stable, how Afghanistan can be stable if pakistan which we called it a brother country fires more than 500 rockets to Afghanistan soil and kills more than 40 civilians. there are more than these kind of things that Pakistan is doing to Afghanistan so i can not mention here. we do not blame pakistan people they are good people whatever i have never been in Pakistan but the government of Pakistan and ISI they are doing all these. Recommend

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