ISLAMABAD (Dec 12,2018) –Pakistan is building a double fence on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as high as 12 feet in height along the peaks at elevations above 10-12000 ft range.
The 840km fence in Waziristan region of the tribal agencies called FATA will be completed by end of 2019 and cost $483 million–with no help from the US or Afghanistan, and sometimes even while taking fire from Afghan troops and terrorists alike.
The fencing is not just to stop terrorists from crossing the border but also the opium smugglers from doing do.
After 17 years and $1 trillion spent, there is no end to the fighting – but western intervention has resulted in Afghanistan becoming the world’s first true narco-state, The Guardian wrote in January this year.
The paper also reported that back in 2004, then secretary of state Colin Powell urged for a forceful counter-narcotics strategy for parts of rural Afghanistan, including the same kind of aggressive aerial defoliation then being used against Colombia’s illicit coca crop. But the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, resisted this approach, seconded by his local ally Ashraf Ghani, then the country’s finance minister (and, since 2014, its president), who warned that such an eradication program would mean “widespread impoverishment” in the country.
The illegal opiates are largely smuggled to international markets through Pakistan and Iran. Also, the small pink flower derivatives continue to create intended and unintended costs in terms of socio-cultural impacts to the Pakistani society. The number of heroin addicts surged from near zero (yes, zero) in 1979 to 5,000 in 1980, and 1.3 million by 1985 – a rate of addiction so high the UN termed it “particularly shocking”.
War-shattered Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts. But the effort has failed to stop opium production, which increased to record highs and stood at an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017. Critics blame insecurity, rampant corruption and patronage by influential Afghans for the unprecedented growth.
Last week, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran pledged to increase cooperation and information-sharing for effectively combating the trafficking of Afghan opiates.
That the fencing goal is twofold–stopping terrorists from crossing the border and the opium smuggling through Pakistan–would end up reconciling the difference in perspective and the paradox in US strategy in Afghanistan–it blames its “non-Nato ally” Pakistan for not being helpful while itself being unhelpful on the Afghan side in controlling if not elimination the two menaces that has been harming Pakistan.
Meanwhile, terrorist acts inside Pakistan reduced tremendously over the last year and a half since fencing begun with hundreds of manned checkposts along the border.