| 21 April 2024, Sunday |

Pakistan reopens Afghanistan border crossing held by Taliban

According to Pakistani customs officials, Pakistan reopened a major southern border crossing with Afghanistan on Monday, which is currently under Taliban control on the Afghan side, allowing over 100 trucks carrying commodities to flow into Afghanistan.

Pakistan has blocked the Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing, a major port for landlocked Afghanistan, to commercial traffic after severe fighting for control of the border erupted earlier this month between Taliban rebels and Afghan security forces.

“Pakistan has reopened its border with Afghanistan at Chaman today, resuming Afghan Transit Trade, which had been suspended for the past month,” said Arif Kakar, a senior official of the Chaman border area.

It would be open six days a week, he claimed.

According to two Pakistani customs officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Spin Boldak and the border town of Wesh are still under Taliban control, and they have no idea what arrangements are in place across the border or who is processing goods through customs.

They said Pakistani officials were under pressure by traders to let trucks pass through as the goods they were carrying would otherwise perish.

Afghanistan’s interior and finance ministries, and the Taliban spokesman, did not respond to requests for comment.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul on Sunday that Spin Boldak was a “contested space” and the Afghan government was looking to regain control of it.

The reopening came hours after 46 Afghan soldiers sought refuge in Pakistan after losing control of military positions further north along the border following advances by Taliban insurgents taking advantage of foreign forces’ withdrawal.

The Afghan military commander requested refuge at the border crossing in Chitral in the north, the Pakistan army said in a statement, adding safe passage into Pakistan was given on Sunday night after clearance from Afghan authorities.

Hundreds of Afghan soldiers and civil officials have fled to neighboring Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan in recent weeks after Taliban offensives in border areas.

“Afghan soldiers have been provided food, shelter and necessary medical care as per established military norms,” the statement said.

Relations between neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken a sharp downturn in recent weeks, particularly over repeated allegations by Kabul that Pakistan is backing the Taliban – a charge Islamabad denies.

Afghanistan recalled its diplomats from Pakistan after the brief kidnapping of the Afghan ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad earlier in the month.

Afghan officials did not respond to a request for comment on the soldiers’ crossing.

The Taliban has escalated its offensive since the United States announced in April that it would withdraw its troops by September, ending a 20-year foreign military presence.

Washington has stated that air strikes will continue to support Afghan soldiers fighting insurgents.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have failed to make meaningful progress since they began in September of last year.

Following battlefield failures, Afghanistan’s military is shifting its combat strategy, concentrating forces around key areas like as Kabul and major towns, as well as border crossings.

As was the case with another batch of 35 soldiers earlier this month, the Pakistan army has announced that the soldiers who sought shelter will be repatriated to Afghanistan after due process.

  • Reuters