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Afghan and Pakistani Troops in Skirmish
Turkey to host meeting between Musharraf and Karzai
Umer Farooq (umer)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-21 22:11 (KST)   
ISLAMABAD: After a recent clash between Pakistani and Afghan troops on the border, diplomatic efforts have been increased to cool tensions between the two sides.

This time the Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has come forward to mediate between President Pervez Musharraf and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai.

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The leaders of the two neighboring Muslim nations have repeatedly exchanged hot words over the handling of the Taliban insurgency during recent months.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai blames Pakistan for failing to prevent Taliban-led militants from attacking Afghanistan from their bases in Pakistan's tribal areas, where militancy has been on the rise over the last three years.

Pakistan government officials confirmed that President Pervez Musharraf will be visiting Ankara in Turkey on April 29-3O for talks with his Afghan counterpart.

This is not the first time a third country has tried to mediate between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the question of the handling of the Taliban insurgency.

Last September U.S. President George Bush made a similar attempt when he arranged a meeting between President Musharraf and President Karzai in the White House when both the leaders were visiting the United States in connection with the U.N. General Assembly session.

Since then in their meetings with Pakistan and Afghan governments the U.S. officials have been urging both sides to work out a framework for joint action against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and revived militancy in Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

However, U.S. diplomacy has helped little as both the countries continued to engage in diatribes against each other.

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai continues to blame Pakistan for taking a lenient view of militants crossing into Afghan territory from Pakistan's side and attacking troops of international security forces operating in Afghanistan.

He also said that the top leadership of the Taliban, including its one-eyed supreme leader, Mullah Omar, were hiding in Pakistani towns on the border with Afghanistan and were staging their operations inside Afghanistan from there.

For his part Pakistan President Musharraf recently said that he was extremely angry with the way the Afghan government has been putting out negative propaganda against Pakistan and its security institutions.

The situation took a turn for worst when Pakistani and Afghan troops clashed over Pakistani attempts to erect a fence along the border to prevent militants from crossing into Afghan territory.

The latest armed clash between the troops of the two countries took place last Thursday near the Afghan border towns of Shkinn and Angoor Ada in the Pakistani tribal areas.

The Afghan government has been strongly opposed to Pakistani plans to build the fence because it argues that such a move would make the disputed border between the two countries into a permanent boundary.

The existing border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was demarcated by the British when they were ruling over the Indian sub-continent, and most Afghan governments since Pakistan independence have not recognized the existing border.

Afghan governments have also taken the position that the fence would divide the Pushtun tribes living on both sides of the border.

Pakistan says fencing is the most effective way of stopping the cross border infiltration of militants into Afghanistan. Pakistan decided to fence the border after coming under tremendous pressure from its Western allies to stop Pakistani tribal militants from crossing the border into Afghanistan to stage operations against troops of Western nations fighting the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan.

Immediately after the border clash the Afghan Defense Ministry in a statement said that the clash with Pakistani troops took place after the Afghan troops removed the fence erected by Pakistani troops. The statement said that Pakistani troops fired at Afghan troops which led to a clash.

However Pakistani military spokesman rejected the Afghan version of the story. Pakistani military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said that the clashes were unconnected with the fence.

General Arshad said the fighting began after a Pakistani border patrol came under an unprovoked attack by Afghan forces.

Military experts say that the clash between Pakistani and Afghan troops is a minor incident, though it is indicative of the worsening relations between the Pakistani and Afghan leaders who have not desisted from making sharp accusations against each other's country in the recent months.

The issue of the border clash is likely to be taken up in the tripartite commission involving military representatives from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Umer Farooq

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