Noorullah Shirzada / AFP - Getty Images
Afghanistan border policemen take their positions on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Goshta district of Nangarhar province on May 7, 2013.
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Tensions along the volatile border between Afghanistan and Pakistan have plunged relations between the two U.S. allies to their lowest level in years just before Pakistan’s general election.
Last week, Afghans accused their neighbor of trespassing on their sovereignty by building military checkpoints in the Goshta district of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarahar province.
Afghan military officials said they waited for a diplomatic resolution that never came -- resulting in clashes between Afghan and Pakistani military forces. One Afghan border police officer was killed in the fighting last week.
The clashes have sparked an outcry by the Afghan people as thousands have taken to the streets throughout the country protesting the alleged Pakistani breach with chants of “Death to Pakistan.” The crowds have hailed the dead border police officer as a martyr.
“The protection of this land is the duty of every single Afghan,” Sayed Agha Sakhizada, a protester in Laghman province said. “For me, the protection of my land and my religion is the same. I will stand alongside my security forces to fight against these violations on my land and even sacrifice myself for this holy fight to protect my country.”
Rahmat Gul / AP
Afghans chant slogans against Pakistan during a demonstration in Kochkin area on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 6, 2013.
The clashes have done something for the Afghan military that years of fighting the Taliban couldn’t do – they have garnered profound support of the Afghan National Security Forces from the general public.
“We are happy that the people of Afghanistan are standing in support of Afghan security forces. This raises the moral of our forces,” said Cmdr. Mohammad Ayoub Husain Khil, acting commander of the border police in Goshta.
“We are satisfied with the support of our people and will defend this soil and the people of this soil till the last breath of our lives.”
Contentious border: Durand Line
President Hamid Karzai pointed the finger at the Pakistanis during a press conference last Saturday. He accused them of trying to strong-arm the Afghans into accepting the Durand Line -- a contentious border between the two nations that was set by the British and an Afghan king in 1893 but was set to expire 100 years later. Afghans have always wanted the land back and Pakistanis say it is part of their country now.
Karzai said the Pakistanis are trying “to force Afghans to start negotiations on the Durand Line and accept the Durand Line as an international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But they will never succeed to achieve any of these motives. The people of Afghanistan have never accepted the Durand Line since it was created by the British.”
Meantime, the dispute is making for some unusual bedfellows.
According to local officials and community leaders in Kunar, the Taliban have sent them messages saying they are ready to fight against the Pakistani forces and push them back into their land.
The Taliban’s message said: “We have always defended Islam and our country. And even if today foreigners are attacking Afghanistan, we are ready to fight them back.”