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News Analysis |

On Tuesday, the Foreign Office (FO) strongly condemned the attack on a check-post on the Af-Pak border in the Bajaur Agency. After summoning the Afghan charge d’affaires, Islamabad lodged a strong protest with the Afghan government over the blatant cross-border attack. 

On Monday, a militant attack in Bajaur Agency was effectively repulsed by the Pakistani forces as ten terrorists were killed. 2 Pakistani soldiers including an officer were martyred and 4 got injured. Captain Junaid Hafeez and Sepoy Raham Sher succumbed to injuries while evicting the attackers.

While promising cooperation and support for peace efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan has categorically refused to fight the Afghan War in Pakistani territory. 

The Foreign Office noted with great concern the upsurge in militants’ attacks on Pakistani forces at a time when Pakistan is sealing the porous Af-Pak border. The statement said that such attacks highlight the fact that a large number of terrorists take advantage of ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan to launch attacks on Pakistani soil.

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The incident is yet another tactical event that is likely to fester acrimony at the strategic level. Kabul and Islamabad have not only engaged in recrimination but have traded fire and closed borders this year. While promising cooperation and support for peace efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan has categorically refused to fight the Afghan War in Pakistani territory. 

Islamabad’s civilian and military leadership have broached upon the US and Afghan officials the need to eliminate sanctuaries in Afghanistan that aid terrorists in mounting attacks inside Pakistan. Last week, Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua said that the US assured Pakistan that no group will be allowed to launch attacks on Pakistan from Afghan soil. This was the assurance Pakistan needed but it remains to be seen whether the intention is carried through.

The Foreign Office once again stressed the need for the Afghan government to effectively target elements that are using Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan.

It is highly unlikely that the assurances of cooperation given to General Bajwa during his visit to Kabul last month will be fulfilled. This, according to many is primarily because of the singular focus on linking the Afghan security profile with Pakistan.

Not Comrades in Arms

Pakistan’s ties with its Western neighbor have been far from cordial right from the very beginning. Seemingly, the bitterness is not likely to end in the near future. Watchers are concerned that the US’s desire to seek out a rather unlikely military solution to the Afghan problem will ensure that Kabul and Islamabad will fire volleys at each other. The new South Asia Policy has been wholeheartedly embraced by the fragmented National Unity Government (NUG) in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan has not only challenged the utility of force application in the Afghan theatre but has also rallied regional support for a political solution to the problem at hand. 

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It is highly unlikely that the assurances of cooperation given to General Bajwa during his visit to Kabul last month will be fulfilled. This, according to many is primarily because of the singular focus on linking the Afghan security profile with Pakistan. Last week, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Nicholas said that Pakistan has not changed its behavior.

He stated: “No, I haven’t seen any change yet in their behavior. “You’ve heard the public statements from President Trump, from (Defence Secretary James) Mattis, from (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph) Dunford, from (Secretary of State Rex) Tillerson, so we are engaging at the very highest levels with the Pakistanis to work together with them against these terrorists that are undermining the stability of the entire region.”

The price Pakistan is paying for security vacuum on Afg side of the border. Pak has done its part; cleared all areas, fencing, new posts, enhanced presence along border & established of crossing points. More efforts required on the Afghan side by all stakeholders

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Much of what happens between Afghanistan and Pakistan is directly linked to how and what the US does in Afghanistan. A lot will depend upon how soon the US starts to feel the heat on the battlefield. Analysts have stressed on the futility of force being applied on the Taliban. However, the Pentagon is still certain that the tables can turn on the battlefield.

Pakistan for its part has once again accentuated upon the need to eliminate terrorists’ havens in Afghanistan.”Two more martyrs today[Monday]! The price Pakistan is paying for the security vacuum on the Afg side of the border. Pak has done its part; cleared all areas, fencing, new posts, enhanced presence along border & established of crossing points. More efforts required on the Afghan side by all stakeholders,” General Asif Ghafoor said on Monday while condemning the attack in Bajaur Agency.

It is reasonable to make a prognosis that ties between the two countries are far from friendly. The animosity is now well entrenched and part of the high-power jostling in the region and beyond.

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