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Escalation of Tensions in Afghan-Pakistan Relations

Afghanistan allowed use of Pak airspace

With the continued artillery shelling of Pakistan on Afghan soil, Afghan defense officials have warned that Afghanistan is considering to retaliate the cross-border attacks on Afghanistan’s eastern provinces. Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi told the lawmakers that is not changing their aggressive approach towards Afghanistan despite the Afghan government’s objection to the incursions. Mohammadi said the president had directed the defense ministry to be prepared for retaliatory actions against Pakistani shelling on eastern parts of the country. Afghan officials have said that Pakistan has incessantly shelled eastern province of Kunar despite recent diplomatic efforts to end the cross-border shelling. According to Kunar officials, six locals have been killed as result of shelling about one thousands artillery shelling on Kunar Province.

The artillery shelling on eastern Kunar province is turning into a post-NATO problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s relations. While the US-led NATO forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan and will fully leave the country by 2016 as recently announced by US president Barack Obama, Pakistan is escalating the shelling as another warfare tactic against the embattled Afghan government. Afghanistan and Pakistan had tense relations in past thirteen years over issues such as Pakistan’s support to the Taliban, the militant’s safe haven in Pakistan and cross-border issues. As now the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan, the cross-border incursions and artillery shelling is becoming the new source of tensions between Kabul and Islamabad.

In recent weeks, Afghanistan has repeatedly warned Pakistan that the shelling would sour the relations between the two countries, and that Afghanistan will respond to the attacks if diplomatic efforts fail. Despite the Afghan warning, Pakistan has continued the shelling which is meaning that Pakistan does not intend the tensions despite promises from Islamabad to deescalate the tensions and end the cross-border shelling on Afghanistan soil. Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Muhammadi labeled Pakistan as enemy, saying that Islamabad is not changing approach regarding the artillery shelling on Afghan soil.

Pakistan is opening another front for undermining Afghanistan’s security, potentially damaging any future possibility of mutual cooperation over extremism and the Taliban threats for both countries. This is while Pakistan itself is paying a grave price in fighting militancy in the country. The country does not seem determined to shift policy and support peace efforts in Afghanistan without preconditions. The ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan fuels instability in Pakistan as well and Islamabad knows this fact. The peace and stability in both neighboring countries is closely tied to both Kabul and Islamabad’s policies over the militant groups that are threatening both countries. If the Afghan government fails to settle the conflict through negotiations and there is no peace in Afghanistan, there would be no peace in Pakistan and the region.

Pakistan needs to understand what are at stake and, on one hand, end border attacks and incursions on Afghan soil, and on the other hand, support the peace efforts in Afghanistan and do not create another source of tensions between the two neighbors.

 

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