Pakistan, which has been noticeably complaining about having been drawn into the US-Afghanistan standoff, is seriously considering stepping up efforts to erect a fence with the neighboring war-torn state, but with one caveat: the US will have to pay.
So fat there is little progress, though, as only less than 10 per cent of the wall which was originally to stretch along the 1,456 miles (2,343 kilometers) of mountainous border with Afghanistan has been completed due to lack of finances.
Nevertheless, this hasn’t prevented Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif from asserting that the barrier should be finished by the end of 2019. He added that he would doubt the Americans would notice the cost of the project, since “the war is costing them much more,” Asif told Bloomberg.
Pakistan is so used to begging for money that it refuses to stop even after being publicly snubbed by US. It’s part of their muscle memory…a reflex action, if you will. Pashtuns don’t recognise the Afghan-Pak border. What’s the scam about the fence?
— Major Gaurav Arya (@majorgauravarya) February 10, 2018
The US has been pressurizing Pakistan to act more decisively against the Afghan Taliban and affiliated Haqqani network in the wake of Trump’s outspoken comments on the subject. In January, Trump suspended a whopping $2 billion worth of military aid to the nuclear-armed nation and accused Pakistan of thanking the US for its continual funding with “lies and deceit.”
The border fence is hoped to curb the increasing flow of militants into both countries, Asif said in an interview to Bloomberg, adding that Pakistan is also considering the return of more than 2 million Afghan refugees, who he feels stand in the way of peace. He called on the US to assist with the wall and repatriation of the Afghan refugees, saying the issue is feeding terrorism.
The relations between the two neighbors have considerably soured in the past few years, the sides repeatedly condemning each other for harboring insurgents.
On top of that, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said Pakistan is waging an “undeclared war of aggression” against his nation and has threatened armed conflict over the fence across the contested Durand Line, which divided the historically ethnic Pashtun community.
The accusations also centered around the infamous refugee issue, after the Pakistani leader forcefully returned some Afghans who had previously fled the war zone by crossing the interstate border. The move and the Pakistani policies at large sparked debate and a storm of criticism in the UN at the time.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have 235 checkpoints, a lot of them frequented by militants and drug traffickers. As many as 18 can be accessed by vehicles, a report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network research group stated in October. As of today, the Taliban can move without any restrictions between the two countries.
“Any free movement from their side to our side, or our side to their side, can breed mistrust and obviously some terrorist activity on our side or on their soil,” Asif said. “It’s in our mutual interest that the border is fenced.”