Pakistan rejects allegations of ‘air support’ to Afghan Taliban

Afghanistan’s First Vice President had accused Pakistani forces of supporting Taliban after it took control of a key border crossing.

Pakistani soldiers keep guard at the border-crossing town of Chaman
Pakistani soldiers keep guard as citizens return from Afghanistan at the border-crossing town of Chaman, Pakistan [File: Drazen Jorgic/Reuters]

Pakistan has rejected allegations made by a senior Afghan official that it had provided “close air support” to the Afghan Taliban after the armed group took over a key border crossing between the two countries, a Pakistani foreign ministry statement says.

Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Thursday evening alleged that Pakistani forces were supporting the Afghan Taliban after they took control of the Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan in Kandahar province earlier this week.

Saleh had alleged that the Pakistani air force had “issued official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force”.

The top Afghan official accused Pakistan of providing “close air support to Taliban in certain areas”.

On Friday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry, in its statement, said Pakistan’s air force was restricted to protecting the Pakistani air space.

“The Afghan side conveyed to Pakistan its intention of carrying out air operation inside its territory opposite Chaman Sector of Pakistan,” said the statement.

“Pakistan responded positively to Afghan Government’s right to act in its territory. In spite of very close border operations normally not acceded to by internationally accepted norms/standards/procedures, Pakistan took necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population.”

The statement said that Pakistan acknowledged the Afghan government’s “right to undertake actions on its sovereign territory”.

The spat comes after the Afghan Taliban forces took control of the Spin Boldak crossing, known as Chaman on the Pakistani side of the border, on Wednesday.

The white flag of the Afghan Taliban replaced the Afghan government’s flag at the border crossing, and it remained in place on Friday, although fighting is ongoing.

Pakistani authorities told Al Jazeera they reopened the border crossing, which is one of the main trade and travel routes between the two countries, for a short period on Thursday to allow stranded Afghans and Pakistanis to return home if they so wished.

The border remained closed on Friday, according to a statement by authorities in Chaman.

The United States is weeks away from a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, under a peace deal signed with the Afghan Taliban in February 2020.

In recent days, the Afghan Taliban have launched a large offensive across the county, taking control of several district capitals from Afghan government forces.

Direct peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and Afghan government, stalled for months, are due to resume in the Qatari capital Doha, with senior officials saying talks could take place on Friday.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Thursday said its plans to hold a three-day Afghan peace conference in the Pakistani capital Islamabad from Saturday remained unchanged, with several senior Afghan leaders invited to those talks.

Source: Al Jazeera