August 3, 2021

Afghanistan and Pakistan at loggerheads, against a backdrop of the Taliban offensive

The departure of the Americans from Afghanistan causes a new bout of fever between Kabul and Islamabad. On Friday, July 16, the 26-year-old daughter of the Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan was kidnapped as she left for a taxi ride in the heart of the Pakistani capital. She was allegedly assaulted by two men, before being abandoned unconscious on the side of the road. On Sunday July 18, Kabul recalled its ambassador, after which Pakistan did the same with its one stationed in Afghanistan.

White House Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad made a brief visit to the Pakistani capital on Monday to ask the two countries to observe ” a truce “, even if only “Temporarily”, on the occasion of Eid-el-Kebir, the Muslim holiday celebrated from July 19 to 23 this year. The American diplomat had arrived from Doha, where inter-Afghan negotiations resumed over the weekend. For the first time since the opening of the peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban in September 2020, talks were held at the highest level, against a backdrop of intensified fighting in Afghanistan.

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Mr. Khalilzad met the Pakistani army chief of staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, on Monday. It was the bearer of an optimistic message on the development of the situation in Afghanistan, which the United States left almost entirely on July 2. However, the inter-Afghan discussions in Doha give no indication of the imminent end of the clashes between the Afghan security forces and the insurgent movement.

“Pakistani denial”

Pakistan, in this highly volatile context, is accused of adding fuel to the fire. On Thursday, July 15, Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Twitter that the Pakistan Air Force is currently providing a “Close air support to the Taliban in certain areas” and that she had recently been blackmailed, “Warning the Afghan army that it would repel any action aimed at dislodging the Taliban from the Spin Boldak region”. It is in this city in southern Afghanistan, located between Kandahar and the Pakistani border, that Indian photographer Danish Siddiqui was killed on Friday under Taliban bullets.

Islamabad’s reaction to Mr. Saleh’s comments was swift. “These statements undermine Pakistan’s sincere efforts to play a role in the search for an appropriate solution under the aegis of the Afghans themselves”, retorted Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The latter assured that Pakistan had instead responded favorably, Friday, to the Afghan government’s request to conduct air operations in the Spin Boldak sector, “Despite the international practice of not allowing such operations near a border”.

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