Pakistan rejects allegations of ‘air support’ to Afghan Taliban

July 16, 2021: Pakistan has denied allegations by a senior Afghan official that it provided “close air support” to the Afghan Taliban after an armed group seized a key border crossing between the two countries, a Pakistani foreign ministry statement said.

On Thursday evening, Afghanistan’s first vice president, Amrullah Saleh, accused Pakistani forces of supporting the Afghan Taliban after taking control of the Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan in Kandahar province earlier this week.

Saleh alleged that the Pakistani Air Force had “issued a formal warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to oust the Taliban from the Spin Boldak area would mean a face off with the Pakistan Air Force.”

A senior Afghan official accused Pakistan of “providing close air support to the Taliban in some areas.”

On Friday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the Pakistani air force was limited to protecting the Pakistani air force. “The Afghan side conveyed to Pakistan its intention to conduct an air operation in its territory in front of the Chaman sector of Pakistan,” the statement said.

“Pakistan has responded positively to the Afghan government’s right to exercise its territory. Despite very close border operations not generally adhering to internationally accepted standards and procedures, Pakistan has nevertheless taken the necessary steps to protect its military and people in its territory.”

The statement said Pakistan recognized the Afghan government’s “right to act on its sovereign territory”.

On Wednesday, Afghan Taliban forces took control of the Spin Boldak crossing, known as Chaman on the Pakistani side of the border. The Afghan Taliban’s white flag replaced the Afghan government’s flag at the border crossing, and it remained intact on Friday, as fighting continued.

Pakistani officials told Al Jazeera they briefly reopened the border crossing, one of the trade and travel routes between the two countries, on Thursday, so they could return home if they wanted to. The border remained closed Friday, according to a statement from officials in Chaman.

Under a peace deal reached with the Afghan Taliban in February 2020, the United States is weeks away from a complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In recent days, the Afghan Taliban have launched a major operation in the county, taking control of several state capitals from the Afghan government forces.

Direct peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government, which have been stalled for months, are set to resume in the Qatari capital, Doha, with senior officials saying talks could take place on Friday.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that plans to hold a three-day Afghan peace conference in the Pakistani capital Islamabad had not been put on hold since Saturday, with several senior Afghan leaders invited to the talks.

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