Pakistan said Tuesday it will have fenced off its traditionally porous border with Afghanistan by the end of next year, leading to an improved security situation in the region.
The military-led massive construction program, launched in mid-2017, is installing a pair of nearly 3-meter-high chicken wire fences, with a 2-meter gap between each one, and topped with barbed wire, along the nearly 2,600-kilometer border. Additionally, hundreds of new outposts and forts have been built or are under construction.
"We have achieved a lot of progress. I believe we will be able to complete the Pak-Afghan border fencing by the end of 2020," Khusro Bakhtyar, the Pakistani minister for planning and development, said during a Tuesday night news conference in Islamabad.
The fence runs through rugged terrain and snow-capped mountains as high as 12,000 feet. The border security plan, officials estimate, will cost about $500 million.
Bakhtyar said that after securing the western Afghan border, the government will begin establishing a robust fence along the nearly 900-kilometer porous border with Iran in the southwest.
"We will not have 100% control over Pakistan's security situation as long as our borders remain porous," he stressed.
Pakistan officials insist the border fencing program will help prevent terrorist infiltration and the movements of smugglers in either direction, addressing mutual security concerns.
Authorities in Afghanistan have been critical of Islamabad's unilateral border management project because Kabul disputes the former British-era demarcation it refers to as the Durand Line. Pakistan dismisses the objections and maintains the boundary with Afghanistan is an internationally recognized border between the two countries.
The tensions have triggered border skirmishes between Pakistani and Afghan security forces.
Kabul alleges leaders and fighters of the Afghan Taliban use Pakistani soil for planning and sustaining attacks inside Afghanistan. For its part, Islamabad says fugitive militants, after having fled Pakistan counterterrorism operations, have taken refuge in Afghan border areas and plot cross-border attacks from there.