Pakistan proposes fence to rein in Taliban
On Tuesday, it announced plans to put barriers and land mines along its 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan.
First, Pakistan tried to fight the Taliban militia along its remote, craggy border with Afghanistan. Then it tried to make peace with them. This week, Pakistan announced a new solution to the problem on its western frontier: mines and fences along the Afghan border, designed to keep militants from crossing in and out of the tribal zone.
Western capitals, newspapers, and military intelligence reports are increasingly voicing concern that the source of the Taliban's growing power rests in Pakistan and that Pakistan is not doing enough to quell it. This latest approach, beyond being quixotic, is also risky, analysts say: If the fence doesn't work, Pakistan may have exhausted all apparent options – and possibly its credibility, too.
"If this doesn't solve the problem, then what next?" asks Ramiyullah Yusufzai, a prominent journalist and tribal analyst in Peshawar.
For its part, Afghanistan immediately responded with anger to the fence idea. "The border is not where the problem lies," Khaliq Ahmad, a presidential spokesman in Kabul, was quoted as saying.
Many critics in Pakistan agree. "Are we going to detain ourselves? Or should we look into the root causes – the policy of tolerating militants inside our borders," asks Afrasiab Khattak, a political analyst and member of the opposition Awami National Party in Peshawar, near the Afghan border.
Pakistan has repeatedly dismissed the numerous claims that it has shied away from engaging Taliban militants, reiterating its commitment to fighting terrorism. The fence proposal, Pakistani officials insist, has not been timed to address rising concerns in the international community.