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Why is Pakistan pursuing an armed conflict along Durand Line?

The Afghanistan–Pakistan skirmishes along the Durand line have been happening since the creation of Pakistan in 1947. These incidents have always been over territory and posting disputes, and have never escalated into a full blown military conflict between the two states. Prompt negotiations between relevant low ranking army officers have most of the time resolved the triggering issues, and central governments have seldom needed to interfere in such incidents.

Since 2011, however, these skirmishes have taken a very specific, and familiar pattern, with some common and repeating features. Reported border clashes recorded by Discourse Afghanistan since February 2011 amount to 19 incidents. These are significant incidents with multiple casualties that attracted the attention of national media in both countries at the time. In addition to this, there have been dozens of other clashes that did not have any reported causalities, and were not sufficiently reported by the media.

One common feature of these skirmishes over the recent years is that in almost all cases, Pakistan Army and Border Militia have been reported as the violating party in the conflict. In 15 of these reported cases, the violations have been military incursion by Pakistan Army to West of the Durand Line. In remaining 4 cases non-military intrusions triggered armed response by Afghan Border Police. These non-military intrusions include building military outposts in disputed territories, forced or incentivized relocation of villages from the areas adjacent to Durand line, unilateral border fencing, and in the recent case, conducting surveys and census in villages located to West of the disputed Durand Line.

The other feature of these new skirmishes is that after each violation and military encounter, the Pakistan Army has emphasized on immediate negotiation, and a joint survey of the border areas. The Afghan government have repeatedly declined to be party to these surveys as they refer to Durand Line as an international border between the two countries, something that the Afghan Government does not recognize.

Over the past few years Pakistan Army and Air Force have conducted dozens artillery and air strikes to the West of the Durand Line, and every time the Afghan Government has protested, the Pakistan Army has demanded an arbitration or an agreement that somehow implies the Durand Line as an international border between the two countries, a propositions the Afghan Government finds very provocative.

Over the past few months the villagers to East of the Durand Line have reported that the Pakistani officials have asked them to relocate to the areas away from Durand Line for no given reasons. Pakistan have increased her posting along the Durand Line in Chaman, Zhob, and Pashin, and has dug lengthy military canals along the disputed line.

This new and emerging pattern of military incursion by the Pakistani Army to West of the Durand Line, and the repeated border and air space violations, along with the new military activities across the Durand Line reveal unilateral attempts by Pakistan to launch an extensive armed conflict along the Durand Line, aiming to force Afghan Government into an internationally mediated negotiation that will pressurize the Afghan side into recognizing the Durand Line as an official border, or at least document it as one. While such attempt by Pakistan have failed in the past, given the disunity within the  National Unity Government, and its weak diplomatic machinery, such a pressure could be frustrating for Afghan side.

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