Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Key US Partners Clash While Taliban Regroups ; an Afghan Mob Trashed Pakistan's Embassy in Kabul Tuesday, Complicating US War on Terror

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Key US Partners Clash While Taliban Regroups ; an Afghan Mob Trashed Pakistan's Embassy in Kabul Tuesday, Complicating US War on Terror

Article excerpt

While US enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are regrouping, the US-backed governments in Kabul and Islamabad are locked in a bitter dispute.

Afghan protesters attacked Pakistan's embassy in Kabul Tuesday and burned the Pakistani flag. The action followed recent claims from President Hamid Karzai that Pakistani forces had "taken" Afghan territory during skirmishes along the lawless and poorly demarcated border.

In response, Pakistan closed its embassy and halted diplomatic relations with Afghanistan.

Analysts say the latest turn of events deals a severe blow not only to the traditional ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but to the ongoing US-led war on terror.

"The US wants friendly relations between these two countries to be able to effectively continue joint operations ... to weed out Taliban and Al Qaeda elements," says analyst Jalaluddin Khan. "This standoff will be detrimental to all involved."

US and Afghan forces have been conducting search-and-kill operations in the regions bordering Pakistan to root out remnants of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and fighters loyal to guerrilla leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. On the other side of the border, the US has provided intelligence and communications assistance to Pakistani forces engaged in the same fight.

But with the two US partners at loggerheads, such military coordination may be jeopardized - especially if US forces must divert energies from hunting militants to keeping peace between allies.

The Afghan government said Monday there had been skirmishes along the border in eastern Nangarhar province for several days, some involving military forces from the two countries, some involving tribal militants. Afghan security forces say hundreds of troops have been dispatched to the border.

In April, Afghan and Pakistani border guards briefly battled near the Afghan town of Ghulam Khan in the eastern province of Khost. An erstwhile supporter of the Taliban regime, Pakistan has struggled to develop warmer relations with the new government in Kabul. …

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