Reliable Security Information

The Troubled Afghan-Pakistani Border


Afghanistan shares borders with six countries, but the approximate 1500-mile-long Durand Line along Pakistan remains the most dangerous. Kabul has never recognized the line as an international border, instead claiming the Pashtun territories in Pakistan that comprise the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of North West Frontier Province along the border. Incidents of violence have increased on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border since the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. In the last several years, U.S. officials and national intelligence reports have repeatedly attributed the growing strength of al-Qaeda and resurgence of the Taliban to safe havens in this border region. By early 2009, there was growing consensus in Washington that to win the war in Afghanistan, it had to address the chaos in Pakistan's tribal areas. In March 2009, Gen. David McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan, told the Newshour the only way to break the stalemate is to take "an Afghanistan-Pakistan approach to this insurgency."

Historical Conflict

The region that is today known as Afghanistan was long torn by ethnic and tribal rivalries. It started evolving as a modern state in the early nineteenth century when the British East India Company began expanding in the northwest of British-held India. This was also the time of the “great game”—the geopolitical struggle between the British and the Russian empires. The British held the Indian subcontinent while the Russians held the Central Asian lands to the north. Their spheres of influence overlapped in Afghanistan. Britain, concerned about Russian expansion, invaded Afghanistan in 1839 and fought the First Anglo-Afghan War. This led to a decade of machinations between the British and the Russians and two more bloody wars, at the end of which in 1919, Afghanistan won its independence.

Durand Line

The Durand Line is named after foreign secretary...

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