(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Twenty-seven members of one family were buried in a mass grave in Mandatah. It was marked with white flags and 27 piles of stones.”)
Now that the (for years heavily Pakistan-backed) Afghan Taliban are firmly (sort of) back in power, the Pak military are increasingly exasperated with their protégé’s’ tolerance/protection of their Pak brethren in Afghanistan.
First two tweets,
and now from a NY Times report vividly describing the aftermath of the strikes mentioned just above (and the background to them)–can’t say Kabul wasn’t warned:
The airstrikes killed at least 45 people, stoking fears of a violent resurgence of the conflict in eastern Afghanistan, which has become a base for Pakistani militants.
By Christina Goldbaum and Safiullah Padshah
Photographs by The New York Times
MANDATAH VILLAGE, Afghanistan — It was nearly 3 a.m. in the mountainous borderlands of eastern Afghanistan when a deafening thud jolted Qudratullah awake. Confused, he staggered to the doorway of his mud brick home, looked outside and froze.
Thick plumes of black smoke and dust filled the air. The front of the modest house where his relatives lived was a pile of rubble. His 3-year-old nephew stood in the yard, sobbing. Behind him, four more children were sprawled across the pale earth, their lifeless frames soaked in blood…
His village, Mandatah, was one of four in eastern Afghanistan hit this month by Pakistani airstrikes, Afghan officials said, killing at least 45 people, including 20 children.
Among them were 27 of Qudratullah’s relatives — an almost incomprehensible loss…
The pre-dawn airstrikes in Khost and Kunar Provinces two weeks ago marked a serious escalation of the cross-border conflict in this remote, wild and rocky stretch of Afghanistan, and exacerbated tensions between the two countries that have navigated a delicate relationship since the Taliban seized power last year.
Pakistani officials have not confirmed or commented on the airstrikes.
The airstrikes, which Afghan officials said were carried out by Pakistani military aircraft, came several days after militants said to be operating from the area killed seven soldiers across the border in Pakistan…
For over a decade, Pakistani authorities have sought to stamp out the militants hostile to the Pakistani state in Afghanistan’s borderlands, sporadically hitting the area with artillery that have killed a handful of civilians each year.
After the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government in Afghanistan, many in Pakistan hoped that the insurgents turned rulers — who benefited from Pakistan’s support over the past 20 years of war — would rein in the violence by the militants, known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or the Pakistani Taliban [emphasis added].
But in recent months, attacks by the group in Pakistan have surged: Since the Western-backed Afghan government collapsed in August, the Pakistani Taliban have carried out 82 attacks in Pakistan, more than double the number over the same period of the previous year, according to the Islamabad-based Pak Institute of Peace Studies. The attacks killed 133 people.
Those numbers are still relatively low compared with the height of the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency around 2009, but the recent sharp increase in violence has fueled fears that the group is gaining strength after having declined over the past decade, and has reinforced concerns that Afghanistan under the new Taliban government could become a haven for militants.
The Islamic State has carried out several attacks across the country, mainly against Afghanistan’s Shiite minorities [see tweets near the bottom of the post], while the Pakistani Taliban have resurged in the east, analysts say.
Taliban officials have denied providing safe haven for militants, including the Pakistani Taliban, but the issue has become a flash point between Afghan and Pakistani authorities, who claim that the militant group — which is responsible for some of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s history — has become emboldened under the new Taliban government and allowed to operate freely on Afghan soil.
The Pakistani Taliban, which analysts estimate to have several thousand fighters in eastern Afghanistan, have maintained ties with the Taliban for over a decade and pledged allegiance to the Taliban leader. Hundreds of jailed Pakistani Taliban militants were released from prison last year as the Afghan Taliban seized control of major cities and liberated their prisons [emphasis added]…
The glint of a barbed-wire fence dividing Pakistan and Afghanistan is visible just over the horizon. The border, known as the Durand Line, cuts directly through traditional Pashtun lands and for decades was little more to families divided on either side than a line drawn across the maps of British colonial officers.
The fence itself has been a source of tension between the two countries since Pakistani authorities began its construction in 2019 along the disputed border.
When the Pakistani military launched a sweeping military offensive against militants in 2014, hundreds of thousands of people fled the fighter-bombers pounding Pakistan’s tribal areas and crossed into Afghanistan, seeking shelter with relatives.
Among them were many militants with the Pakistani Taliban, who found refuge among the Taliban. For years, they quietly regrouped amid the threat of American airstrikes and offensives by Western-backed Afghan security forces. But since the Taliban seized power last year, many militants, now able to move freely, have returned to their relatives’ homes along the border, residents say.
…as the signs of Pakistani Taliban militants have grown in recent months, so too has the shelling from Pakistan, residents say. Still, the devastation from the airstrikes on April 16 was unlike anything they had ever experienced…
More personal accounts of the attacks and their aftermath conclude the story.
That tweet, from Terrific Terry Glavin:
Plus these earlier ones. Bloody ISIS:
Another explosion at a mosque in Kabul killed at least 66 people on Friday. A suicide bomber struck as “worshippers at the Sunni mosque gathered after Friday prayers for a congregation known as Zikr—an act of religious remembrance practised by some Muslims but seen as heretical by some hardline Sunni groups,” Reuters reported from the Afghan capital.
UN offers sympathy and condemnation. “Attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including mosques, are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. “It was not immediately clear who was responsible,” Reuters continued. “Scores of Afghan civilians have been killed in recent weeks in blasts, some of which have been claimed by Islamic State.”
ICYMI: “Islamic State claims deadly bomb blasts on minibuses in Afghan city,” via Agence France-Presse, reporting Thursday from Mazar-i-Sharif, in the north. ..
And a related recent post: