ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan has lodged an official complaint with Pakistan over a deadly border clash this week between security forces along their shared border. The incident could imperil a recent thaw in bilateral relations, although Islamabad has downplayed it and vowed to help sustain Kabul’s peace and reconciliation efforts.
Cross border clashes
The border clash occurred this past Tuesday in the remote Angoor Adda region, leaving one Afghan guard dead and another wounded. Pakistani officials have confirmed two of their soldiers were wounded.
Kabul alleges Pakistani forces were building new facilities close to the border in violation of mutual agreements, provoking Afghan forces to intervene and open fire.
On Thursday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry summoned Pakistan’s top diplomat in the country to protest the incident. An official statement quotes the Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai as saying the border violation by Pakistan goes against all international and diplomatic norms.
He warned that repeating such actions could “deeply damage” bilateral relations.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qazi Khalilullah, dismissed allegations that the construction activity was unauthorized and said Pakistani forces only responded to the Afghan aggression.
“It is being constructed well within the Pakistani territory," Khalilullah noted. An RPG-7 rocket and few rounds of small arms were fired on Angoor Adda gate from Afghan side due to which two Pakistani security personnel were injured. Pakistani troops responded and targeted positions from where fire was coming.”
Afghan and Pakistani security forces have engaged in cross-border shelling in recent years but this week’s incident comes at a time of improved bilateral ties.
The spokesman reiterated that Islamabad is determined to further counterterrorism cooperation with Kabul and “both sides have agreed to take coordinated actions against terrorists” threatening their region.
Seeking peace and reconciliation
He dismissed suggestions Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is increasingly unhappy about Pakistan’s alleged lack of cooperation to help end the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. He said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has assured the Afghan leader of his full support.
“The two leaders also share a mutual conviction to overcome the past and build a forward-looking relationship based on trust and understanding and are constructively engaged to rebuild mutual trust and understanding for a cooperative relationship,” Khalilullah stated.
Fugitive Taliban commanders and fighters have allegedly used bases in Pakistan for years to direct the Afghan insurgency. Islamabad said its security forces have dismantled those sanctuaries.
Khalilullah reiterated that Pakistan is trying to persuade pro-peace Taliban groups to engage in talks with the Kabul government to help end the protracted Afghan conflict.
“Pakistan has been facilitating the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, the process, which is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. China also has interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan and we have been discussing this with China but it is not possible for me to discuss in detail the developments that have been taking place in this regard,” said Khalilullah.
Pakistani officials say they had facilitated a secret meeting between Afghan peace negotiators and Taliban envoys in late May in China and another round is expected to take place very soon.