Pakistan will have unilaterally fenced “sensitive areas” along the country’s largely porous border with Afghanistan by the end of the year, discouraging terrorist infiltration in either direction, officials told VOA on Friday.
The massive army-led construction effort to fence the entire 2,611-kilometer western frontier and build new outposts, as well as forts, went into action more than a year ago.
Initially, the comprehensive border security plan focused on areas that Pakistani officials identified as highly vulnerable to terrorist infiltration and illegal crossings, and where they said Afghan forces on the other side have little or no presence due to capacity issues.
“Sensitive areas will be fenced by December 2018,” chief military spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor told VOA. The remaining, he vowed, will be completed “by December 2019.”
A pair of three-meter chain link fences, with a two-meter gap topped with barbed wire, has been installed along 310 kilometers, he said.
The general explained the military also has raised or is in the process of raising new units of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) force for deployment along the Afghan border once the construction of new installations is over.
Ghafoor would not say, however, how many personnel ultimately will be sent to the border, and he denied media reports about as many as 60,000 additional troops.
"Yes, new FC wings will impact such increase but correspondingly [the] army might get thin along the border,” the general noted.
Afghanistan historically disputes the 1893 British colonial era boundary with Pakistan and publicly opposes the fencing project.
Islamabad rejects Kabul's objections and says it inherited the international border after gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
Pakistani leaders said sustained counterterrorism operations have uprooted all terrorists from their soil and enhancing the border security will help reduce militant violence in both countries.
U.S. and Afghan officials, however, continue to blame sanctuaries in Pakistan for enabling the Taliban insurgency to sustain and expand attacks inside Afghanistan. The allegations remain at the center of Islamabad’s diplomatic tensions with both Kabul and Washington.
President Donald Trump suspended all military assistance to Pakistan in January until it takes decisive action against terrorists on its soil, charges Islamabad says stem from U.S. military failures in Afghanistan.
Ghafoor told a recent news conference that security operations have forced Afghan insurgents to move back to Afghanistan where the Taliban controls vast territory. He insisted repatriation of Afghan refugees would enable Pakistani forces to go after remnants of Taliban insurgents on their side of the border.
“I can assure you the day these 2.7 million Afghan refugees are repatriated our liberty of action will expand to trace the leftover facilitators and abettors,” said General Ghafoor.