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Analysis: Pakistan's Lack of Border Control

Council on Foreign Relations

January 24, 2007
Prepared by: Carin Zissis

The frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan serves as the flash point for tensions between the two countries as Kabul grows increasingly critical of Islamabad's seeming inability to control cross-border raids by Islamic militants. The solution proposed by Pakistan last month to mine and fence the roughly 1,500-mile Durand line (VOA) did little to reassure Afghans, who have long disputed the boundary. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose criticism was echoed by Washington and the United Nations, said Islamabad should instead eliminate terrorist sanctuaries (BBC) within Pakistan rather than separate families who live in the border region. Pashtun tribal leaders on both sides of the boundary warn if Pakistan carries out the plan they will remove any barriers or mines (Pajhwok Afghan News).

Pakistan, under U.S. pressure to stop Taliban incursions into Afghanistan, has sought to place blame across the border. In a Washington Post interview, a Pakistani military spokesman said his country has made genuine attempts to control the border and that Afghanistan also plays a role in cross-border raids by insurgents: "If 25 percent of the problem lies on our side of the border, 75 percent of it lies on the Afghan side."

But even if its intentions are sincere, Pakistan's ability to contain militancy appears increasingly in question. The government of President Pervez Musharraf has proven unable to halt terrorist activities in the autonomous tribal areas near the border. Critics view the government's treaty with the North Waziristan tribal region as a concession to the Taliban and other militants active there rather than a victory for Islamabad. A briefing by the United States Institute of Peace looks at the gap between Pakistan's will and its ability to carry out anti-terrorist activities, saying Pakistan cannot meet the demands of Kabul and the international community because Musharraf lacks credibility.


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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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