UNITED NATIONS Afghanistan's foreign minister warned the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that its ties with Pakistan were being threatened by Pakistani shelling across the two countries' mountainous border that has killed dozens of Afghan civilians.
Afghanistan has for months accused Pakistan's army of firing hundreds of rockets into the two eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, targeting insurgent havens but also forcing Afghan villagers to flee their homes.
"Failure to end such attacks risks jeopardizing Afghanistan-Pakistan bilateral relations, with potential negative consequences for necessary bilateral cooperation for peace, security and economic development in our two countries and the wider region," Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said.
Afghanistan has sent additional troops and long-range artillery to the border with Pakistan as tensions rose over the shelling.
"We reiterate our call for an immediate and complete end to these acts, which have taken the lives of dozens of Afghans, mainly civilians, while leaving many more wounded," Rassoul said.
Pakistan has repeatedly accused Afghanistan of giving safe haven to militants on the Afghan side of the border, particularly in Kunar province, leaving Pakistan vulnerable to counter-attack when it chases them out of its own ethnic Pashtun tribal areas.
Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said his country had a robust security force along its border with Afghanistan and had recently enhanced its presence with checkpoints and regular patrolling.
"Our deployment far exceeds the number of international and Afghan forces deployed on the other side, which might also be the reason why so many attacks take place on the western side in Afghanistan," Haroon said. "We continue to be resolute despite the high human and economic cost of this endeavor."
REVOLT AGAINST TALIBAN?
U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, said humanitarian agencies have registered about 4,000 people from Kunar province who had been displaced by the cross-border shelling since April.
Kubis said he was "glad to hear authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan are already engaged in multi-level dialogue in order to resolve this situation and its root causes."
He also told the Security Council there had been reports of uprisings against the Taliban in various areas of the country, but that this new development required greater analysis because "the drivers of violence are complex and the actors - and their allegiances - fluid."
"Desire for local communities to have security and justice led them to taking the situation into their own hands. There is a risk of even greater fragmentation of the security environment," Kubis said.
"Many of these localized conflicts would appear to be resistance to the Taliban, but not necessarily in support of a greater government presence."
The Taliban leadership appears anxious to present a more moderate face amid tentative peace moves to end the 11-year war with NATO-led forces, but links to the beheading last month of 17 villagers at a party and the shooting of a young woman accused of adultery in July could further reduce public support for the insurgency.
During their five-year reign, ended by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, the Taliban banned women from voting, from most work and from leaving their homes unless accompanied by their husband or a male relative.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)