The offensive carried out by Afghan forces at the border crossing with the neighbouring country has provoked a clash between the governments of Kabul and Islamabad

High tension on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border

REUTERS/PARWIZ - Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint recaptured from the Taliban

As the situation in Afghanistan escalates, accusations between Pakistan and the Central Asian country intensify. The Taliban takeover of the Spin Boldak-Chaman border crossing, the second most important border crossing with Pakistan and an important source of revenue for the Kabul government, has uncovered old feuds between the two countries.

The Kabul government has repeatedly accused the neighbouring country of harbouring and supporting the Taliban, while Pakistan has consistently denied these accusations. The Spin Boldak border crossing provides direct access to Pakistan's Balochistan province, where the Taliban's leadership is believed to be based. Insurgents seized control of this important crossing last Wednesday and Afghan forces have been trying to recapture it ever since.


According to the AFP news agency, the army and police "launched a joint operation today to retake Spin Boldak", Jamal Nasir Barakzai, a police spokesman in Kandahar, told the agency, adding that "Afghan forces have reached the market". Inhabitants of Spin Boldak contacted by AFP confirmed that the Taliban had withdrawn but that "heavy fighting between insurgents and Afghan forces" continued.

The offensive by Afghan forces on the border with Pakistan has provoked a clash between the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. The Afghan first vice-president, Amrullah Salé, denounced on Twitter that "the Pakistan Air Force has issued an official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from the Spin Boldak area will be met and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force". Salé also accused the neighbouring country of providing "close air support to Taliban in certain areas". In another tweet, the vice-president explained that Afghan aircraft within ten kilometres of Spin Boldak "were warned to turn back or face air-to-air missiles".

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The government in Islamabad has denied the accusations made by Afghanistan's first vice-president. The Pakistani foreign ministry has issued an official statement saying that Pakistan "responded positively to the Afghan government's right to act on its territory" despite the fact that "border operations do not normally conform to internationally accepted norms". The letter stresses that Pakistan "took the necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population".

Islamabad accuses Afghanistan of "undermining Pakistan's sincere efforts to play its part in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution" and adds that it recognises "the right of the Afghan government to take action in its sovereign territory". In response to Pakistan's denial, Afghan First Vice President Salé has again rebuked the neighbouring country, noting on his Twitter account that "for more than twenty years Pakistan denied the existence of the Quetta Shura or the presence of Taliban terrorist leaders on its territory".


Afghanistan has seen a surge in violence and a rapid advance by the Taliban since the United States announced in April that it was withdrawing all its troops from the Central Asian country. Last May the insurgents launched an offensive that has led to the fall of large rural areas under the control of the Kabul government. The Taliban have claimed that they now control 85% of the country. In this context, the clashes between the Afghan government and Islamabad are not helping to stabilise the situation in the Central Asian country.

The executive in Kabul is losing control of strategic areas of the country where tribal leaders have taken control of the power vacuum and have become responsible for negotiating with the Taliban. According to local media reports, in Badghis province, fighting between insurgents and security forces in the provincial capital Qala-e-Naw ceased thanks to the mediation of tribal elders. "Ten tribal elders had taken responsibility for the ceasefire, so they first talked to the Taliban and then to the local government and both sides came to a ceasefire," provincial governor Husamuddin Shams told Reuters.


As the government in Kabul loses influence and the Taliban accumulates more and more victories, some of Afghanistan's top political leaders, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, are expected to fly to Qatar this weekend for talks with members of the Taliban in an effort to break the deadlock in peace talks.