Pakistan, Afghanistan preparing for ‘small war’, Islamabad denies report


Islamabad : Pakistan has denied a report in a British newspaper that Islamabad and Kabul were preparing for "a small war" in the Spingar mountain range, saying there was "no tension" on the border.

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Major General Waheed Arshad, director general of the Inter-services Public Relations (ISPR), while ruling out any possibility of a war, said that should there be "an external aggression," Pakistan would give "a fitting reply".

"There is no tension at the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the reports about preparation for a small or large-scale war are merely propaganda," Arshad was quoted by The Nation newspaper Sunday.

There have been media reports of frequent exchange of fire along the border with casualties, even as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan National Army have been engaged in bloody battles for the past many weeks. The casualties in this fighting have included many foreign mercenaries, including Pakistanis.

Arshad was reacting a report in The Sunday Times, London, which said that the Afghan security forces were preparing for "a small war" against Pakistan.

"Scores of heavily armed Afghan troops and fighters from special border police units – determined, professional and evidently spoiling for a fight – gathered around their senior officers for orders," said The Times report.

"The fighting is the most serious of its kind for years. However, the fighting has sparked anti-Pakistani sentiment among the Afghan border tribes at a time when the fortunes of every foreign player trying to stabilise Afghanistan are dependent on the two neighbours cooperating."

Each side accuses the other of initiating the bombardments, which so far have left 13 Afghans dead and 51 wounded. Foreign diplomats in Kabul fear that the situation, which has united Afghan nationalist sentiment across every ethnic divide, may escalate.

It threatens to wreck any semblance of security cooperation between the countries, to the detriment of NATO's struggle with the Taliban, the British newspaper said in a long report.

Tension has been growing for months along the 1,615-mile (2,600km) border shared by the two nations. Afghanistan has consistently accused Pakistan's intelligence service ISI of equipping and training Taliban fighters in camps inside Pakistan, then allowing them to cross into Afghanistan.

In the remote border district of Ali Kheyl in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan security forces have found themselves pitted against Pakistan. Clashes between the two neighbours – two of the West's biggest allies in the War on Terror – began here on the morning of May 13 when Pakistani forces fired on an Afghan post at Toorgawe, a strategic point on the border.

Since then, there has been a build-up of forces in the contested zone as hundreds of regular Afghan soldiers from the 203rd "Thunder" Corps, who had been fighting the Taliban, have been deployed in the area to reinforce the beleaguered border police, bringing with them heavy artillery sent up from Kabul.

"We can't wait any more," said Brigadier Sana-ul- Haq, a staff officer in the corps. "Now if anything further happens we will reply in kind."