The Pakistani military is building a fence along the 2,600-kilometer border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The military is also setting up forts and other defensive positions on mountain tops in the area.
The work will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Pakistani officials hope it will effectively increase security on both sides of the border.
Afghanistan opposes the fence project. Afghan officials have long disputed the border created in 1893, when Pakistan was a British colony. Officials do not recognize it as an international border.
The Afghan government says a fence would add to the problems of divided families and tribes, mainly ethnic Pashtuns, living along the dividing line.
Pakistan dismisses Afghan objections over the border. Pakistani officials say their country took possession of the area when Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947.
On Wednesday, the Pakistani army flew reporters to the tribal border areas of South Waziristan and North Waziristan.
The two areas share a more than 300-kilometer border with Afghanistan. They are part of the Federal Administered Tribal Areas, known as FATA. Until a few years ago, they were known for sheltering militants blamed for terrorist attacks on both sides of the border.
Pakistani commanders now say security operations have neutralized the threat of militancy in almost all of FATA.
Pakistan new border defense
Crews are building four-meter high chicken wire fences in the border area. On top of the fences, crews are adding barbed wire.
Major-General Nauman Zakaria, a local army commander, met with reporters at a newly-built fort. The commander used the term “paradigm change” to describe the new defenses. “There will not be an inch of international border (here), which shall not remain under our observation by December of 2018,” he said.
Zakaria noted that Pakistani troops occupy over 150 positions in the area under his command. He said Afghan forces have only 21 posts on their side because of capacity issues and a lack of armed forces members.
Drone aircraft and other modern equipment are being deployed so Pakistani officials can make sure the border area is being watched 24 hours a day.
Officials expect the new defenses to be ready within the next two years. It will cost Pakistan an estimated cost of $532 million. About 180 of the 750 forts the army plans to build along the border have been either completed or are being built.
Military officials say they have already fenced off more than 40 kilometers of territory where militants are likely to cross the border.
Stronger border controls have been added at the two main border crossings of Torkham and Chaman to document identities of daily crossers.
Area military commanders admit the fencing plan will divide villagers around Chaman. But they say the government plans to offer financial help to some Pakistani families to get them to move.
Yet the country remains under international pressure. Both Afghanistan and the United States say Pakistan has been helping the Taliban and its ally, the Haqqani militant group. They say militants are using Pakistani territory to plot attacks against the Afghan government.
Afghan officials also say militant leaders are on the Pakistani side of the border and are being protected by the Pakistani spy agency.
Pakistan strongly rejects the claims. It says security operations have cleared all areas of militants on its side of the border. In turn, Pakistan says militants have taken refuge in ungoverned Afghan areas and are plotting cross-border raids.
Speaking in Angoor Adda, General Zakaria said the fence will answer both sides’ concerns "once forever" and help Pakistan have a stable relationship with the neighbors he described as "Afghan brothers."
I'm John Russell.
And I'm Susan Shand.
Ayal Guz reported this story for VOANews. George Grow adapted his report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
barbed wire – n. wires with very sharp points
paradigm – n. a model for something that may be copied
inch – n. a small amount; a form of measurement
capacity – n. one’s mental or physical ability
complement – n. something that completes or makes perfect
drone – n. an unmanned airplane or ship
stable – adj. firmly established; not changing
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