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After Pakistan Conducts Airstrikes in Afghanistan, Taliban Retaliates by Firing Across Border

The airstrikes took place after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had vowed revenge after the killing of seven soldiers after an attack on a security post in North Waziristan on Saturday.
Situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan border after airstrikes. Photo: X (Twitter)/ @yuvnique

New Delhi: Signalling a further deterioration in ties, Pakistan on Monday conducted airstrikes inside Afghanistan, following which the Taliban government retaliated by firing across the border at Pakistani military installations.

On Monday, a Taliban government spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that Pakistani planes had killed at least eight people, including three children, in border areas of Afghanistan’s Paktika and Khost provinces. The airstrikes took place at around 3 am local time (22:30 GMT).

Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced that it carried “intelligence-based anti-terrorist operations in the border regions inside Afghanistan”.

The airstrikes took place after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had vowed revenge after the killing of seven soldiers after an attack on a security post in North Waziristan on Saturday.

According to Pakistani media, the terror group, led by a “good Taliban-turned-militant leader” Hafiz Gul Bahadur had claimed responsibility for the attack. A former government contractor, Bahadur and his associates had fled to Afghanistan after Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

The Taliban announcement on Monday morning asserted that the accused Abdullah Shah targeted by the airstrikes was still in Pakistan. It also noted that the area was populated by tribal population which were living on both sides the border “who have daily trips and close relationship”.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns these attacks and calls this reckless action a violation of Afghanistan’s territory,” said the Taliban spokesperson, adding that these incidents could have “very bad consequences which will be out Pakistan’s control”.

Mujahid directly blamed the Pakistan army for being trigger-happy. “The people of Pakistan and the new government should stop some army generals from the continuation of their wrong policies for the benefit of others like the last 20-year and spoiling the relationship between the two neighboring Muslim nations. Pakistan should not blame Afghanistan for the lack of control, incompetence and problems in its own territory,” he stated.

Later, the Taliban government’s ministry of defence declared that the in response to the Pakistani airstrikes, the Afghan border forces “targeted Pakistan’s military centers along the hypothetical line with heavy weapons”.

“The country’s defense and security forces are ready to respond to any aggressive actions and will defend their territorial integrity in any case,” it said.

Afghan media outlet Tolo News reported that the cross-border firing between Afghan and Pakistani border forces began at around 7 p.m. at Dand-e-Patan district of Paktia. It also wrote, citing sources, that three Pakistani soldiers were wounded in the fighting.

Following the Taliban’s two announcements, the Pakistan foreign ministry issued a detailed press note, but it did not acknowledge any retaliation from Kabul.

The Pakistani statement declared that the target of “today’s operation was the terrorists belonging to Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group, which along with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, resulting in deaths of hundreds of civilians and law enforcement officials”.  It also referred to the March 16 attack in North Waziristan.

The press release from the Pakistan Foreign Ministry also asserted that Pakistani authorities had repeatedly told its Afghan counterparts over the presence of TTP on Afghan soil.

“We have repeatedly urged the Afghan authorities to take concrete and effective action to ensure that the Afghan soil is not used as a staging ground for terrorism against Pakistan. We have also called on them to deny safe havens to TTP and to hand over its leadership to Pakistan”.

However, the foreign ministry claimed that “certain elements among those in power in Afghanistan” were using TTP as a proxy against Pakistan by “actively patronising” the terror group.

“We urge these elements in power to rethink the policy of siding with Khwarij terrorists shedding the blood of innocent Pakistanis and to make a clear choice to stand with the people of Pakistan,” said the statement.

There has been a surge in attacks against Pakistani security agencies after the TTP called off its ceasefire in November 2022.

Last December, a banned group Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan stormed a military compound and killed 23 soldiers in Dera Ismail Khan.

At the last attack on March 16, around six militants rammed the gate of the security post with a truck filled with explosives and then killed the security personnel. During the funeral on Sunday, President Zardari stated that Pakistan “will respond to them strongly, regardless of who it is or from which country”.

This is the second time that Pakistan has conducted airstrikes in another country this year. In January, Iran launched attacks against bases of Jaish al-Adl group in Baluchistan,s following which Pakistan conducted retaliatory airstrikes. After a period of tension, the two neighbours restored diplomatic ties.

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