Pak's Afghan border plan impractical: Analysts
Pakistan has said that it would fence and mine parts of its border with Afghanistan to stop Taliban insurgents crossing.india Updated: Dec 27, 2006 18:02 IST
A Pakistani plan to build a fence and lay landmines on parts of its Afghan border is impractical and will not stop an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, analysts said on Wednesday.
Pakistan said on Tuesday it would fence and mine parts of its border with Afghanistan to stop Taliban insurgents crossing.
Afghanistan, increasingly critical of Pakistan for not doing enough to stop cross-border incursions, immediately rejected the plan as neither helpful nor practical.
Analysts in Pakistan agreed, saying it would be impossible to effectively seal a largely unmarked frontier that stretches 2,500 km from snow-covered mountains in the north to remote deserts on the border with Iran in the south.
"This is impractical. It cannot be fenced, it cannot be mined," said Asad Durrani, a former chief of Pakistan's main Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
"It cannot be covered by observation and fire and if that is not done, they (the fence and mines) do not serve their purpose, they can be breached."
This has been the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since US-led forces ousted the hardline Taliban government in 2001.
The violence and a war of words over Taliban safe havens in Pakistan has strained relations between the two US allies in the war on terrorism.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai this month levelled some of his strongest criticism at Islamabad.
A spokesman for Karzai, rejecting the proposal to fence and mine the border, said terrorists had to be confronted head on.
Analyst and author Ahmed Rashid said the plan for the border was a red herring.
"The essential thing that Pakistan needs to do is arrest the Taliban leaders living in Quetta," he said, referring to the southwestern Pakistani city where Afghanistan and its allies say the Taliban have found refuge.
"As long as the Taliban organisational structure has a base in Pakistan this conflict is going to continue."
Pakistan, which supported the Taliban before the Sept 11 attacks on the United States, has denied helping the insurgents, or that Taliban leaders are in Pakistan, but says militants are crossing the frontier.
The decision to reinforce the border was a reaction to the chorus of accusations over Taliban incursions, and both countries could be taking more effective measures against the militants, said retired Pakistani general Talat Masood.
"In the end, people are interested in results. Are we really preventing terrorism? Are we really preventing the rise of Talibanisation and extremism? Ultimately, that is what matters," Masood said.
"There's much more to be done than mining, on both sides."
Rashid said fencing and mining the border would aggravate tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan and incite anger among the ethnic Pashtun tribes that straddle the border and have always crossed it freely.
"Secondly, it's an impossible task," he said.
Pakistan bitterly opposed a move by India to fence the disputed frontier with Kashmir to block Kashmiri separatists it says are backed by Pakistan.
"It still has not stopped infiltration," Rashid said, referring to the Indian fence. "So how are we going to stop infiltration along 15,000-foot peaks and hundreds of miles of desert?"
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said the movement of people through designated border checkposts would not be impeded.
"We intend to mine and fence areas from where most illegal crossings take place," she said.
Disagreement over the frontier has bedevilled relations between the neighbours since Pakistan's independence in 1947.
Afghanistan has never recognised the border, which it says was unfairly imposed by British colonialists in 1893, and is reluctant to see it marked out by a fence and minefields, analysts said.