06/28/2011, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN - PAKISTAN
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Karzai calls on Pakistan to stop firing rockets into Afghanistan

by Ashraf Zamani
The two nations continue to be at loggerheads. Islamabad categorically denies that rockets were intentionally fired from its territory into Afghanistan. Kabul insists they were. Sources tell AsiaNews that the controversy between the two countries appears designed to attract US interest at a time when Washington announced plans to withdraw 33,000 troops.
Kabul (AsiaNews) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday called again on Pakistan to stop immediately firing rockets into the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar. At least, 470 rockets have landed in the area in the past three weeks, killing 36 people, including 12 children. Pakistani authorities have rejected the charges. Sources tell AsiaNews that the two countries have been at loggerheads for years over a number of issues, including foreign military and economic aid.

At least 1,500 families have fled the area, afghan sources said. NATO forces have pulled out as well. By contrast, the Taliban are present.

Pakistani army spokesman Major Athar Abbas rejected Afghan claims, saying that no rounds had been intentionally fired into Afghanistan. A few rounds could have accidentally fallen into Afghanistan, he explained, when security forces targeted militants carrying out cross-border attacks into Pakistan. In any event, the matter would be looked into.

Karzai said on Sunday that if Pakistani government forces were responsible for the bombardment, "they should be stopped immediately". However, "if they are not being carried out by Pakistan, Pakistan should make it clear who is behind the attacks".

“The government of Pakistan should understand that there will be a reaction for killing Afghan citizens," Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said on Saturday.

Afghanistan has often accused Pakistan of not preventing the Taliban from setting up cases in Pakistan, from where they can attack Afghanistan.

For its part, Islamabad has accused Kabul and NATO forces of not doing enough to target Taliban strongholds in eastern Afghanistan, from where attacks are launched against Pakistan.

The strikes began at least three weeks ago, local experts said, and it is unclear why Afghanistan waited so long before going public.

Some believe that the dispute with Pakistan is designed to ask for more aid, showing that Kabul is a trustworthy ally, as well as highlight Islamabad’s failure to tackle Islamic terrorism.

“President Karzai is of two minds, and sometimes one contradicts the other,” an anonymous source told AsiaNews. “For some time, he has been calling on the United States to withdraw its troops, but when the latter says it will do it, the thorny border security question and the difficult relationship between Kabul and Islamabad come up.”

The issue of Afghan-Pakistani border security cooperation and the fight against Islamic terrorism came quickly to the fore after US President Barack Obama announced on 22 June that 33,000 (out of 110,000) US troops would leave before September 2012.

“We must consider whether or not the 400,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been trained in ten years of US presence can cope with the situation, maintain security and fight the Taliban,” the source said. Nonetheless, what is clear is that “Western forces have not favoured the formation of a governing class that could lead the country towards greater democracy and favour its economic development without sinking into debt and corruption.”

“The problem of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations has deeper and intractable roots. When Pakistan was created in 1948, ethnically Afghan Pashtun areas were included. This population is divided in two. Pashtun live in the Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, where the Taliban are strong and are helped by ethnic Pashtuns from both states.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan need Western economic aid, especially from the United States.
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