Pakistani soldier killed during clash at Afghanistan border

A man in North Waziristan, the district where the recent clash took place. 

Pakistani soldier killed in a clash with militants at Afghanistan border 

By Rachel Brooks

May 23, 2021 

News roundup, commentary 

On Sunday, the Associated Press reported a clash between Afghan militants and Pakistani soldiers at the border of northwestern Pakistan. The cross-border attack occurred in the North Waziristan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province late Saturday night. The Pakistani military stated that gunfire was exchanged between militants on the Afghan side and Pakistani forces. One Pakistani soldier was killed during the exchange. No other injuries or fatalities were reported. 

Pakistan’s military also stated that it had “consistently” called upon Afghanistan to “control its border.” Afghan military spokesperson responded to this statement by saying that there is no center of terrorism in Afghanistan and that all the militants of the region “have bases in Pakistan.” 

Anxiety has increased in the geopolitics of the region following the United States’ decision to remove U.S. forces and NATO-ally forces from the Afghan conflict theater. The U.S. has been present in Afghanistan for roughly 20 years, responding to the Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. 

Pakistan has cooperated with the United States to support its security interests in the region. The Hindu reported Saturday that Pakistan has allowed the United States overflight and access to support the U.S. military position in Afghanistan, citing the Pentagon. Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Affairs David F Helvey likewise stated that the U.S. will continue the conversation with Pakistan regarding regional security, “due to the important role” that Pakistan has played in support of the peace process with its war-torn neighbor, wrote The Hindu. 

The U.S. military spoke regarding Pakistan’s role in the Afghanistan post-U.S. deployment peace process at a recent hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Afghanistan. Mr. Hevley reportedly stated the importance of Pakistan in future processes in response to comments made by Senator Joe Manchin. 

“Pakistan has played an important role in Afghanistan and they have supported the Afghan peace process,” said Helvey, as he was quoted by The Hindu. 

Other commentators note that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is clouded with uncertainty. The Military Times wrote that President Joe Biden had decided to “pull the plug” on the American presence in the region after the Trump administration initiated the withdrawal. Biden stated that the reasons for continued American involvement had become “increasingly unclear.” Biden’s withdrawal process commenced, with the uncertainty of its own as the final withdrawal draws near. Questions included speculation about U.S. options should the Taliban seize upon the advantage of U.S. absence and take power. Other questioned included wonderment about the financial aid and diplomacy process, and whether that would be enough to absolve the tense Afghanistan crisis that kept the U.S. present in the region for two decades. Despite these questions, Biden argued that it was “time to end America’s longest war” and that America must continue its withdrawal despite risks due to “festering terror risks elsewhere.” The administration left questions as to whether or not the U.S. would continue providing air support to the Afghan military from bases outside the country, adding to the list of questions as to what the U.S. options are in continuing regional peace mediation. 

Yet, as the Biden administration favors the benefits of leaving over the risks of a power vacuum, many geopolitical experts make their predictions. Some worry that the United States will leave Afghanistan in a power vacuum that instigates civil war, or war with its neighbor Pakistan. The scenario that the Kabul government and the Taliban will make peace is not as likely, though the U.S. officers state it is not impossible. During the Trump administration, Trump demanded that the Taliban disown AlQaeda. Geopolitical researchers are skeptical that the Taliban have factually disowned Al Qaeda, a contingency of a lasting peace between the group and the Kabul government.

The Biden administration has stated that it will urge Congress to continue funneling aid to the support of a de-escalation process in Afghanistan. Congress has been urged to continued funding aid to the Afghani military and police. Yet, the domestic political scene within America complicates this process, as progressive activists call for a defense budget spending cut. The Hill obtained a letter from 40 activist groups urging Congress to take advantage of the Afghanistan withdrawal and limit defense budget spending. 

The status of the domestic U.S. political crisis impresses upon the foreign policy agenda of the Biden administration, adding to the many speculations of the future of security in the Afghan region. This adds to a growing list of world security concerns in regions surrounding Afghanistan, with the looming threats of both Russian and Iranian aggression adding stress to the policy agendas of the western world.