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The Rising Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan 

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Pakistan’s recent air raids inside Afghanistan have ignited a fresh wave of tension between the two neighbouring countries. Analysts believe this escalation in violence casts a shadow of uncertainty over their already troubled relationship. Pakistan claims the airstrikes targeted hideouts of armed groups, including the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). However, the Afghan government paints a different picture. They allege the attacks resulted in civilian casualties, including women and children. The Taliban vehemently deny harbouring foreign militants but acknowledge challenges in controlling remote border regions.

The complex history between Pakistan and Afghanistan fuels the current animosity. Pakistan was once a patron of the Afghan Taliban, but a splinter group, the TTP, emerged to wage war against the Pakistani state. Following the US withdrawal and the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, Pakistan hoped for influence over the new regime to control the TTP threat. This hope has been dashed as attacks inside Pakistan have only intensified.

The recent cross-border strikes come amidst a surge in violence within Pakistan. 2023 saw a significant rise in attacks, primarily targeting security personnel, with the TTP claiming responsibility for most. This has understandably impacted Pakistani morale and prompted a forceful military response. However, there are concerns about the potential for escalation.

Some analysts see Pakistan’s actions as a display of strength, mirroring their response to Iranian cross-border attacks earlier this year. However, this tit-for-tat approach carries risks. An aggressive stance may invite retaliation from the Afghan government, potentially allowing the TTP more freedom in border areas. Pakistan holds some leverage over Afghanistan, being its landlocked neighbour and biggest trading partner. Additionally, Pakistan hosts millions of Afghan refugees. However, using these factors as leverage could further strain relations and exacerbate anti-Pakistani sentiment in Afghanistan.

The recent air raids highlight the deep mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This “cousinly fight”, as described by an observer, seems to have no easy solution. Both sides face a complex situation with limited options, and the potential consequences of further escalation are significant for both nations.

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