A recent article in the Wall Street Journal sheds light on artillery shellings being fired across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border into Afghan villages by the Pakistani Military.
As the article points out, Pakistan may be feeling increased pressure to intensify its war on terrorism in light of the U.S. led killing of Osama bin Laden in May. Indeed, Pakistan states that the shellings are a necessary component of their fight against home grown Taliban insurgents.
Still, others see the border violence quite differently. The United Nations estimates that around 12,000 civilians have fled border villages since mid-June. “Afghans are fleeing village by village. The shelling started in January, picked up in the spring and intensified in June with entire towns destroyed,” stated the head of the office for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Afghan border provinces of Kunar and Nangahar.
For their part, Afghan officials claim that 800 rockets have been launched across the border in the past month. More personal accounts are provided by villagers themselves, such as Khan Wali from Kunar province. “The shelling started in the morning, killing two children in our village and forcing the rest of us to flee….Our village is deserted since 20 days ago…”
Sadly, collateral damage involving civilians is a standard feature of major wars such as the war in Afghanistan. In seeking their broader objectives, world powers often inadvertently inflict a great deal of damage upon the nation in which a war is being waged. Not only does this collateral damage manifest itself in the form of death, but also in terms of physical and psychological injury as well as demolished homes, schools and hospitals for those who survive.
Despite their broader role in the war, the foreign powers leading the war are offering little assistance to local governments in regard to the recent border shellings. “We have contacted coalition forces several times, but we haven’t seen any cooperation from them,” stated Wasifullah Wasefi, the Kunar governor’s spokesman.
The leader of coalition forces, the U.S., is staying out of the situation altogether, stating that it is a situation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, in order for the situation on the ground to change, all three governments must get on the same page. Their inability to do so is further illustrated by the recent comments of this, Pakistani Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, the commander for the Northwest, that Pakistan has repeatedly asked for better U.S. and Afghan cooperation in securing the border from militant threats. Furthermore, the U.S. has pulled out of Nuristan and parts of Kunar in the last two years, allowing Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda to gain stronger footholds in those regions, and meaning that Pakistan has reason to be engaging in cross border operations.