Afghanistan’s First Vice President said on Thursday that Pakistan’s Air Force had threatened to engage Afghan Air Force and Afghan National Army forces that attempted to attack Taliban fighters in a border town in Kandahar province.
In a Twitter post, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said that:
“Pakistan air force has issued official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force. Pak air force is now providing close air support to Taliban in certain areas.”
He added that he was willing to share evidence through Twitter direct messages, saying that Afghan Air Force aircraft that came within ten kilometers of Spin Boldak’s border crossing were warned to “back off or face air to air missiles”. The First Vice President said that Afghanistan was “too big to swallow”, and that “relevant outlets” had already been sent the evidence.
While Overt Defense’s requests for comment from the First Vice President and his office have yet to yield any results, TOLOnews was able to obtain a recorded conversation where an Afghan air crew was warned against getting “closer to the border”. An Afghan military official that spoke with the news network said that a flight of three Afghan A-29 Super Tucanos had to abort their close air support mission on Thursday, after Pakistan’s Air Force warned them against coming closer than 18 kilometers to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said that it had been notified by Kabul of its intent to carry out an air operation on the Afghan side of the border, claiming that Islamabad had “responded positively” to the notification. However, the Ministry denied that Pakistan’s Air Force had warned off Afghan Air Force aircraft, saying that Pakistan’s government had taken “necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population”, due to “very close border operations normally not acceded to by internationally accepted norms/standards/procedures”.
Amrullah dismissed the Pakistani denial on Twitter as a “pre-written paragraph”, citing Pakistani denials of harboring the Quetta Shura and Taliban leaders on Pakistani territory over the past twenty years.
While the Pakistani denial contains the claim that they are “committed to peace in Afghanistan”, the accusation casts a shadow over the now-delayed Afghan Peace Conference, which was originally to start on Friday in Islamabad. The conference is now delayed until after Eid Al-Adha, with a formal announcement of a new date to be made later. Sources that spoke with Geo News claim that the postponement was requested by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, with senior journalist and analyst Saleem Safi saying to the news channel that the Taliban were “not ready” for the meeting, while Afghan-Taliban mediator Qatar preferred for talks to be held in Doha like previous negotiations.