ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will add as many as 60,000 troops to boost its patrols along its border with Afghanistan in an effort to curb the flow of insurgents passing between the two nations, according to military officials familiar with the matter.
According to a report published by Bloomberg, 40 percent of the troops have already been recruited in the exercise, which is expected to take two years, the officials said, asking not to be identified so they could discuss sensitive troop movements. About 13 percent of a fence planned along the 1,456-mile-long border has also been completed, they said.
The armed force’s media department didn’t respond to a request for comment. The move will consolidate Pakistan’s border operations, which have been beefed-up in recent years after widespread insecurity wracked the country following the US invasion of Afghanistan.
Domestic terror-related violence is now at its lowest in more than a decade. The army, which has 661,000 regular and paramilitary troops, have previously been more focused on the country’s eastern border with arch-rival neighbour India, with which it’s fought three wars against.
Pakistani officials have said the fence across the mountainous border is needed to stop the flow of militants crossing into both countries. More than 2 million refugees live in Pakistan and the government has said those camps are breeding grounds for insurgency.
The border is porous and has 235 crossing points, some frequently used by militants and drug traffickers, of which 18 can be accessed by vehicles, according to a report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network research group in October.
“It may not stop every terrorist, but it will deter them,” said Ikram Sehgal, a former military officer and chairman of Pathfinder Group, Pakistan’s largest private security company. “If you are serious about no encroachment, this is necessary.”
After winning last month’s national election, incoming Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to work for peace in Afghanistan and told Ashraf Ghani in a call after his victory that he would visit Kabul at an unspecified time. “If there is peace in Afghanistan, there will be peace in Pakistan,” said Imran Khan in a televised victory speech from Islamabad last month.
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