Tensions along Afghanistan’s disputed border with Pakistan may have reached a new high over the weekend. On Sunday, the Pakistani Army claimed to have retaliated against an attack by Afghan security, killing up to 50 Afghan personnel and injuring another 100.
The Pakistani claims, made by the Inspector General (IG) of the Balochistan Frontier Corps (FC), Major General Nadeem Anjum, were immediately denied by Afghanistan. Sediq Sediqqi, the director of media for the Afghan presidential palace, said the claims were “very false” in a tweet, saying that Afghanistan completely rejected the Pakistani claims.
“We are not pleased to tell you that five Afghan check posts were completely destroyed — more than 50 of their soldiers were killed and above 100 were wounded,” Major General Nadim Ahmad, head of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps, told the press.
In Pakistan’s account, Afghan troops began firing on a Pakistani census team without provocation, forcing Frontier Corps troops to respond. Afghan authorities, meanwhile, said that Pakistani forces traversed the border, entering Afghan territory.
Ahmad added that two Pakistani soldiers were killed and nine others wounded in the skirmish. The Afghan claim over the same incident saw far more modest casualty numbers, with Samim Khpalwak, a spokesperson for the Kandahar provincial government, noting that two Afghan troops and one civilian were killed.
According to Tolo News, Kandahar Police Chief Lieutenant Gen. Abdul Raziq said that four Afghan border police force members were killed in addition to 14 others wounded. Raziq also said that 23 civilians were wounded.
The skirmish, which reportedly took place on Friday at the border separating Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province from Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, highlights long-running tensions between the two neighbors — both of whom accuse the other of harboring militant groups.
Border tensions between the two countries escalated last July after Pakistani and Afghan forces exchanged fire near the busy Torkham border crossing — a heavily trafficked border passageway primarily used by Afghans working and visiting family in Pakistan.
As tensions have persisted, Pakistan and Afghanistan have kept de-escalatory channels of communication open between their governments.
On Friday, Afghanistan summoned Pakistan’s charge d’affaires to lodge its protest over the incident.
In the days leading up to this skirmish, a military delegation from Pakistan visited Kabul and head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) also visited Afghanistan. Both visits had suggested a gradual rapprochement may have been underway.
Friday’s skirmish and the divergent assessments in the aftermath from both sides suggest that Afghanistan and Pakistan remain a ways off from a lasting resolution to their mutual distrust.