Tensions Grow as Border Clashes Stall Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade

Pakistan Threatens Mass Deportations of Afghan Refugees

by Jason Ditz, June 17, 2016

The explosive situation at the Khyber Pass, which has seen fighting off and on for several days, appears as unresolved as ever today, with hundreds of trucks carrying goods stuck on either side of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan as border guards on both sides continue to bicker.

Pakistan is one of Afghanistan’s largest trade partners, but the two don’t have established borders, at least not so far as the Afghan government is concerned, and when Pakistan tried to build a fence which they argue is 30 meters into Pakistani territory, Afghan troops started shooting.

The border has been a source of argument off and on for years, and it’s not just the question of a few meters, but of almost half of Pakistan, which Afghan officials argue is part of their country. Pakistani officials have historically just ignored these claims, until facing pressure from the US and Afghanistan to “police the border” they got it in their head to fence in the area around the pass.

Pakistan’s main leverage, trying to avoid a war over the border, is threatening to expel the 1.5 million Afghan refugees camping out in their country. Some fled the US occupation, some fled the Taliban, some fled the Soviets, but none are keen to go back, and Pakistan is betting the perennially bankrupt Afghan government won’t want to try to reabsorb them either.

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