KABUL – In a protracted standoff between the Taliban and Pakistan, Torkham border crossing has remained shuttered leaving thousands of travelers and hundreds of trucks carrying goods marooned for four days. The crossing was closed after heavy clashes between the two nations’ security forces earlier this week.
The closure of Pakistan’s vital border crossing with Afghanistan has resulted in a dire situation for civilians and halted the flow of goods between the two countries. Islamabad took this drastic step following a confrontation with Taliban forces just three days prior.
The prolonged border closure has left thousands of civilians, primarily Afghans, waiting for the crossing to reopen. This impasse has also brought trade between the nations to a standstill, with hundreds of trucks, some transporting perishable items like fruits and vegetables, idling on both sides of the Torkham border.
One Afghan traveler, Nabiullah, who had sought medical treatment in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, expressed his frustration, stating, “We are trapped here. We are in trouble and waiting for the border crossing to reopen,” as reported by RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal.
Reports have confirmed casualties from the clashes, including a Taliban border guard and a civilian. High-level negotiations are reportedly ongoing between Taliban officials in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, where Torkham is located, and Pakistani authorities to resolve the situation. However, Pakistani officials have not yet commented on the matter.
In Landi Kotal, a Pakistani town near Torkham, stranded Afghans have voiced their concerns, emphasizing that the closure is hindering the repatriation of two deceased individuals back to Afghanistan for burial. Imran, one of the stranded Afghans, highlighted the dire conditions, saying, “People here are facing great difficulties, including many Afghan patients, women, and children,” according to Radio Azadi.
The clash on September 6th occurred after a significant incursion by Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants into the remote northwestern Pakistani district of Chitral, located about 400 kilometers north of Torkham along the border with eastern Afghanistan.
Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Taliban government have escalated rapidly following the TTP’s termination of a ceasefire agreement with Islamabad in November of the previous year. The TTP, an ideological and organizational ally of the Taliban, has gained strength since the return of the militants to power in Afghanistan two years ago.
Abdul Naseer Rashtia, the head of an Afghan trading association, noted the adverse impact of deteriorating political relations on trade and economic ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan, stating, “This causes Afghan investors to suffer greatly and badly affects their trade and transit,” as reported by Radio Azadi.
The closure of Torkham and other border crossings between these neighboring nations has become a recurring issue, often triggered by clashes or political disputes over the past two decades. Islamabad’s fencing of its more than 2,500-kilometer border with Afghanistan continues to be a significant tool for exerting pressure on Kabul during times of crisis.