The Border War Intensifies

by Joshua Foust on 6/17/2011 · 3 comments

Afghanistan and Pakistan have made a habit of engaging in combat with each other over the last few years. I wrote about it earlier this year for AfPak Channel, and later noted an even bigger engagement than had previously been reported. But things have found a way to get even worse.

Militants in Afghanistan launched an attack onto Pakistani forces in Bajaur earlier this week [map]. In response, the Pakistani military moved in force into the area, and destroyed a few bomb factories.

Further south, the Pakistani military got into a scuffle with Pashtuns at the Chaman border crossing who resented being treated like insurgents during a search. A few hundred Balochi tribesman came out to protest the harassment, and managed to block the crossing for several hours until Pakistani troops fired into the crowd to disperse it, wounding eight people. Then, this morning the fighting inside Pakistan resulted in a stray rocket crossing the border and killing four Afghan children.

View Larger Map

There are not enough data to say if this is really an escalation of hostilities along the border or just an artifact of more reporting. I suspect it’s some mixture of the two, but I have no way to say for certain. What is clear is that really surprising acts of violence, even interstate violence, go unreported in the mainstream press because it doesn’t involve Americans. And that’s a real shame, but it means we miss out on critical security and political context for everything else that is happening in the war.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Shrikant Kalegaonkar June 17, 2011 at 11:33 am

I want to reemphasize your point “…we miss out on critical security and political context for everything else that is happening in the war”. Context is key to understanding. But, I wonder if there is a real desire to understand the context for what is happening in the AfPak region at all.

Without deep understanding of the various processes in play within the region, you cannot predict the outcomes with any reasonable certainty. Is it any wonder that we’re so often surprised by reactions by the people in those countries (e.g. recent arrests of the CIA informants)? So, how then do you plan? How do you decide what factors to affect and by how much?

I’ve been pondering on this question a lot lately: Are we systematically learning anything from this experiment we’re running?

Boris Sizemore June 19, 2011 at 5:39 am

There are near constant clashes, feuds, and events going on along the borders. A week does not go by that I do not hear from various Elders what is going on. You need to know what spin is coming from whom on which incident and why.

Some are feuds. Some are Taliban Movements. Some are Taliban/Pakistani movements. Some are Mafia movements. Some are Afghan Military vs. Pakistan Military almost events. Some are smuggling events. A lot is going on all the time.

There is no reporting on any of this. The local US commanders are really without a clue to what is going on, fixed foolishly on a preconceived and inherited “picture” of the “enemy” in the area.

It is so much more complex than anyone is presenting. Confusing unless you have watched in detail as the situation evolves over a number of years. It is impossible to jump right in and understand.

We have been jumping right in every year for ten years now. No wonder we just do not know what is going on anymore on either side of the border. Time to move out and start again. The sooner the better.

Tom June 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Its amazing when one zooms in on the google map you can see the extent of population density. WTF. While I follow your ramblings ,,,,, its a type of crazy our role in this, this war of terror. I wonder if a name change to the ‘War on Ignorance’ would create a paradigm shift leading to actions such we do onto our brother what we would do onto ourselves. Nah, I see little evidence we have much respect or honor in how we treat each other. Evidence the US war on drugs; swat teams and the killing of Jose Guerena, 26, a former Marine who had served in Iraq. The list is long. Thanks for keeping the light on.

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