Exclusive: Torkham clashes are Pakistan's diversion strategy, says ex-Afghan intelligence chief

Clashes between Afghanistan and Pakistan border guards started on 12 June when Afghan forces prevented the Pakistani border guards from installing a gate at Torkham. For the last few days, the situation has been tense. Any construction near Torkham (no man’s land or zero point) is a violation of bilateral agreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The build up to this conflict started when Pakistan stopped allowing movement of people without visas from crossing Torkham to the Pakistani side of the Durand Line, not recognised as the international border by Afghanistan.

 Exclusive: Torkham clashes are Pakistans diversion strategy, says ex-Afghan intelligence chief

Afghan security forces carry the coffin of an Afghan soldier, who was killed during gun fighting between Afghan border forces and Pakistani forces at Torkham. Reuters

Pakistan Today reported that the Pakistani government was claiming that it took the step to crack down on terrorism but Pashtuns insist that curbs are placed on the travel of common people and travel of terrorists is facilitated by Pakistan. Pashtuns live on either side of the Durand Line and have parts of their families living on both sides.

Durand Line is a colonial era border treaty signed between British and Afghan Emir Abdur Rahman Khan in 1893. It delineated spheres of influence during The Great Game and split the Pashtun population living on either side of it.

Firstpost reached out to CEO Abdullah Abdullah and ex-chief of Afghan Intelligence Agency National Directorate of Security (NDS) Amrullah Saleh to discuss the recent clashes and the kind of military cooperation they expect from India.

What are your comments on the clashes between forces of Afghanistan and Pakistan at Torkham?

Abdullah's media office: The fight in Torkham was started over new installations. Pakistan wanted to have new installations and that led to clashes. According to the agreement we had, Pakistan can't build any gates/installations in the zero point. Pakistan started the fight and Afghan forces are fighting in defence of their country. We are committed to protect our people against every foreign aggression as we have done in the past. We think this fight isn't serving anyone's interests and Pakistan should support our diplomatic efforts to overcome this challenge through diplomatic channels.

Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan's former intelligence chief, in a file photo. Reuters

Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan's former intelligence chief, in a file photo. Reuters

Amrullah Saleh: Pakistan has, in recent months, suffered on a number of issues; (former Taliban chief) Mansour’s killing was a massive humiliation for them. It showed there is no such thing in Pakistan called full spectrum deterrence and that their space can be easily breached. It also showed that they were harbouring terrorists openly on their soil. Also a number of articles, op-eds and commentaries in reputable and prestigious US publications like the National Interest which ran a story called Don't be scared to squeeze Pakistan, pushed them to focus on a diversion strategy. This time the diversion strategy can't be an attack against India or another massive infiltration in Kashmir or another Mumbai. So they identified Afghanistan as a soft spot with international importance and significance. Pakistan army started to build installations on our side of the Durand Line and the Afghan forces responded bravely. That is the story.

What kind of military cooperation does Afghanistan expect from India, both in the short term and long term?

Abdullah's media office: India is a great friend of Afghanistan. India supported Afghanistan unconditionally and we thank India for the support they provided to us. Our first request from all of our partners and friends is to enhance our defence capabilities. Help us improve the performance of our National Security and Defence Forces (NSDF). We want our partners to equip our forces so we can fight terrorism and all other relevant threats on our own.

Amrullah Saleh: I echo the Indian strategists who say there is no exit option for India. Exactly. India as a rising power has shown morale leadership in the region and has tried to stand on the side of values, state systems and civil society. So India is already seen as a country associated with education, health, urban development, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, higher education and media. That is the soft power of India projected. But Afghanistan needs hard capabilities to defend itself against the terror onslaught which is backed by our nuclear neighbour Pakistan. So in that regard, my suggestion is that it is in the interest of both countries to have close defence, security and intelligence ties as the enemy is common, the threat is common and we share a destiny interlinked. India can also do a lot diplomatically by connecting the region and engendering a narrative of cooperation and harmony. There has been some work in this regard but more can be done. So I encourage India to work closely with ANDSF.

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

Updated Date: Jun 16, 2016 17:36:25 IST