More cross-border firing at Torkham as US calls for resolution


ISLAMABAD: An Afghan official on Wednesday said renewed clashes at Pakistan-Afghan border crossing have killed an Afghan border guard and wounded five others, with Pakistan saying it has dispatched more troops and weapons to the volatile border amid an escalation in tension between the two neighbors.

The Afghan guard is the third fatality since Sunday night, when clashes erupted at the Torkham border crossing over the construction of a gate by Pakistan on allegedly disputed territory.

Pakistan officials said the unprovoked firing from Afghan forces is disrupting border management efforts by Pakistan Army.

“Strengthening of management and facilitation of the movement of people and vehicles across the border is an important part of counter-terrorism effort and also for checking drug trafficking and other illegal activities,” Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said in an official statement on Wednesday.

Aziz said that durable peace and stability across the border cannot be achieved without taking effective measures for strengthening border controls.

“Border management is aimed at addressing the common concern of infiltration and hence to enhance mutual security of both the countries and their peoples”, he remarked, and added the two sides should resolve issues through dialogue.

Afghan border police official Jamal Khan says the guard was killed late Tuesday. Another Afghan guard was killed the first night of the violence and a Pakistani officer wounded in the border clashes died on Tuesday.

Pakistani security officials confirmed the latest exchange of fire but say the ceasefire is now holding.

US urges to resolve tension

The United States on Tuesday called on Afghanistan and Pakistan to peacefully resolve their tension as the clash on Torkham border entered its fourth day.

“We are all watching the tensions very closely,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing and added that the US was in touch with officials on both sides.

“We continue to urge a calm resolution to the tension.”

The spokesman said that the US did not want to see violence and any further escalation in tension. He said Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Olson, who was in the region at the time of the incident, shared these sentiments.

In Islamabad, Ambassador Olson met with government officials, including the adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs and the chief of the army staff, and discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, the spokesman added.

The Afghan Charge d’Affaires was called to the Foreign Office in Islamabad to lodge the protest. Pakistan told the Afghan side that the regulation of movements at Torkham is part of government’s policy to strengthen border management.

The Pakistan Army moved heavy weaponry and additional troops to the Afghan border on Monday night as the clash intensified.

A senior military official, while talking to DawnNews, said that the gate at Torkham will now be built at any cost.

“If someone tries to create hindrance in the process, the army will retaliate with full force,” he added.

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