Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Pakistan and Afghanistan: strategic allies or sworn enemies?


The armies of Afghanistan and Pakistan exchanged artillery firing across their border this week in which the Pakistan military said it had lost a soldier while several others including civilians were wounded. Newspaper reports in Pakistan speak of at least three Afghan soldiers killed in the clash near Angoor Adda in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region.

It isn’t new, there was a clash last week when an Afghan militia attacked a Pakistan border post in the Lower Dir district, according to the Pakistani media, in which 14 security personnel were killed besides a large number of the Afghan militiamen. 

But the latest flareup at the disputed border is interesting because it comes at a time when Pakistan is not only trying to mend fences with Afghanistan, but is also said to be seeking a three-way strategic partnership involving Kabul, Beijing and itself and keeping the United States out over the long term.

Indeed as the Wall Street Journal reported, Pakistan’s leaders told their Afghan counterpart this month that America had failed them both and that the only durable relationship could be with its two neighbours – Pakistan and China. Pakistan has rejected the report as groundless, but given the strained ties with the United States, it has gained traction, striking a chord among those who are convinced that the United States and Pakistan are on a path of confrontation. 
But if Pakistan is seeking to soften up the Afghans, it looks like it has a mountain to climb.  The leak itself of its overtures to President Hamid Karzai is said to have come from Afghan officials keen to remain on America’s side. Besides embarrassing Pakistan, it can only increase the distrust the neighbours have long held for each other.

An Indian in Kabul

(Outside the Indian embassy in Kabul after a blast in October 2009.REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

(Outside the Indian embassy in Kabul after a blast in October 2009. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood)

India and Pakistan are both competing for influence in Afghanistan in a modern-day version of the Great Game that has complicated the search for a settlement, but on the streets of Kabul the Indians still seem to evoke greater goodwill.