The Taliban closed a key border crossing with Pakistan on Friday, saying nobody would be allowed through until Islamabad dropped or relaxed its visa requirements for Afghans.
The Taliban, wresting control of Afghanistan within the wake of a withdrawal folks and other foreign troops, last month captured the southeast Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing from Afghan forces.
Pakistan initially closed its side of the crossing, landlocked Afghanistan’s second busiest entry point and main commercial artery to the ocean , before reopening it last week.
In a statement on Friday, the Taliban statement called on Pakistan to scrap all visa requirements for Afghans.
“(The crossing) will remain closed for all kinds of commuting, including transit and trade, for each side , and pedestrians, until the Pakistani side leaves the gate open, morning to evening, for Afghans holding [Pakistani issued] migration cards or [Afghan] ID cards,” the insurgent group’s shadow governor for Kandahar province said within the statement.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group’s leadership had endorsed the move, and on Friday the border had been closed.
Since US-led foreign troops began leaving Afghanistan earlier this year, fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces has escalated significantly. In recent weeks, the Taliban have advanced rapidly on provincial capitals and targeted top officialdom inside Kabul.
The Taliban have also taken control of several border crossings, including with Iran and Central Asian countries, but the crossing with Pakistan provides a big customs revenue.
Ensuring it’s open for visa-free travel wouldn’t only curry favor with ordinary Afghans, but also prop up a route to parts of Pakistan that have historically housed the insurgent group’s fighters and a part of its leadership.
Afghan government data indicates the route was employed by 900 trucks each day before the Taliban seized it.
The closure could impact import of medicines and other essential goods as violence has sharply escalated in Afghanistan amidst an epidemic , with the United Nations saying many thousands are displaced internally.
Spokespersons for Pakistan’s Foreign and Interior ministries didn’t answer requests for comment from Reuters.
Pakistani border officials at Chaman told Reuters the Taliban had placed concrete barriers to dam the road on their side of the Friendship Gate, the crossing point between the 2 countries.
Many Afghans living in Pakistan are issued migration cards by Islamabad allowing them to remain , but those that want to enter Pakistan today got to obtain a visa.