Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Border Talk Crosses The Line In Afghanistan

A Pashtun man passes the Pakistani-Afghan border crossing in Chaman, a border that Afghanistan believes is no one's business but the Pashtuns'.
A Pashtun man passes the Pakistani-Afghan border crossing in Chaman, a border that Afghanistan believes is no one's business but the Pashtuns'.
By Abubakar Siddique
Foreign diplomats visiting Kabul tread carefully when it comes to the Durand Line, knowing full well that the colonial-era border separating British India and Afghanistan is a touchy subject.

Merely affirming a long-standing policy when it comes to the contentious demarcation can be viewed by Afghans as a step too far, as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, discovered following an interview with a private Afghan television channel this week.

"Our policy is that border is the international border," Grossman said on October 21. "I think it is time to lift everybody's vision here to a regional conception of what the region could be."

It was no secret that Washington considers the Durand Line -- established by British India and the Kingdom of Afghanistan in 1893 -- the modern-day border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland offered reminders of that fact during an October 23 press briefing in which she was questioned about Grossman's comment. "Our policy on this has not changed," she said. "It was correctly stated by Ambassador Grossman that we see this as the internationally recognized boundary."

But the comments have nevertheless raised hackles in Afghanistan, which has not recognized the Durand Line as its eastern border since Pakistan's partition from the British Raj in 1947.

Scroll over map to see the Durand Line

The Afghan daily "Weesa" this week quoted several Afghan lawmakers describing Grossman's statement as interference in domestic Afghan affairs.

And the official reaction was curt, with the Afghan Foreign Ministry issuing a statement on October 23 saying that Kabul "rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about the legal status of this line." The status of the Durand Line, the statement added, was a matter of "historic importance for the people of Afghanistan."

'An Issue For Pashtuns, And Pashtuns Only'

The Durand Line is indeed divisive. It runs directly through traditional Pashtun lands, splitting one of the world's largest tribal societies in two. Those to the west of the line are Afghan; to the east Pakistani.

Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, the head of Kabul's Center for Regional Studies of Afghanistan, says the Durand Line is considered a top national issue in the country, but one that is up to the Pashtuns themselves to decide.

"Recognizing the legitimacy of this line is in the hands of the masses that live on either side of the border. This is also the formal position of the Afghan government," Liwal says. "This is why the Afghan government has protested against this [Grossman's] statement."

The United States is not alone on this issue, as new U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham noted. "The United States, as many other countries, have long recognized the Durand Line as the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan," he told journalists in Kandahar on October 23.

But there are those in Afghanistan who would rather not be reminded of that fact. "I think talking about such [controversial] issues will have negative consequences for relations between America and the people of Afghanistan," Aryan Yoon, a member of the foreign-relations committee of the Afghan parliament, said this week. "I think it will benefit both countries if we desist from talking about such issues."

Liwal, whose government-funded think tank researches strategic and foreign-policy issues, says most Afghans still dream of a return of the much bigger and united Afghanistan that existed before the advent of European colonialism in South Asia.

Modern Afghanistan emerged from the fragmentation of the Durrani dynasty, an 18th-century Pashtun empire based in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Internal rivalries and wars eventually weakened the dynasty's hold on regions that today constitute Pakistan and northern India.

The arrival of the British in northern India in the 19th century posed a major challenge to the Afghan and Turkic powers that had dominated the subcontinent for centuries. After losing a major war to the Afghans in 1842, the British eventually captured parts of Afghanistan and formally annexed them through an arbitrary treaty in 1879. Their forces occupied Kabul at the time.

The contentious 1893 treaty between Afghan King Amir Abdur Rahman and Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of British India, formalized the areas under the control of the two governments.
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Comment Sorting
by: Great Afghanistan Movemen from: Afghanistan
October 24, 2012 15:29

Great Afghanistan Movement (“GAM”) strongly rejects the recent statement made by the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman on the illegitimate, illegal Durand Line. GAM also applauds and supports the Afghan government’s condemnation and rejection of Mr. Grossman’s statement.

On October 21, Marc Grossman told a private television channel in Kabul that Washington recognizes the Durand Line as the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry said the Afghan government "rejects and considers irrelevant” the statement made by Mr. Grossman.

Imposed by British India in 1893 under its imperialist “Great Game” policy over Afghan objections, the Durand Line was drawn to steal the Afghan land and divide the Afghan people. Until this day, the land which rightfully and legally belongs to Afghanistan, is still under the occupation of Pakistan.

Afghans from both sides of this line consider it a line of hatred. It is a line that divides tribes and families. It is a line that has been a source of wars, controversies, and instability for the region. In short, it is a line responsible for much of the sufferings of the Afghan people. For these reasons, no Afghan government has ever accepted the Durand Line as an international border. Likewise, the Afghan people from both side of this line have always rejected this divisive line since its inception.

GAM considers it highly inappropriate for a responsible American representative to make such reckless statement about a sensitive subject that is of historic importance. GAM calls upon the U.S. government to repudiate Mr. Grossman’s comments. GAM also calls upon Mr. Grossman to withdraw his statement and apologize to the Afghan people. Lastly, GAM calls upon the Afghan government to take all appropriate steps to reclaim the occupied Afghan territory and address the issue of Durand Line through international bodies, including the United Nations.

GAM is a united front of all Afghans that seeks the elimination of Durand Line and the reunification of all Pashtuns across the Durand line to create a unified, peaceful Great Afghanistan.
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 25, 2012 17:13
Peaceful Afghanistan? That's a joke...

OK let the pashtuns to unite but then let also the Tajiks to secede and join Tajikistan.

Then let's go further: let the Tajiks of Samarkand to unite with Great Tajikistan and also let the Uzbeks of South-Kyrgyzstan to join Uzbekistan.

Changing international borders along ethnic lines would create a highly dangerous precedent which could flame up thousands of conflicts around the world.

by: KPK from: Durand
October 25, 2012 17:23
Salaam to all Pushtuns in the world, and you are kindly requested to condemn the statment of US Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mark Grossman regarding Durand line. we strongly condemn. it is the issue of the pushtons nation not for USA and Pakistan.

in pashto we say:

till this earth and sky is

till one Afghan is remained

forever there will be Loi (Grand) Afghanistan
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
October 25, 2012 22:34
Salaam PKP, I see no evidence of the US having gotten anything correct about Afghanistan, and therefore you should not be too concerned about this diplomatic error.
In Response

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
October 27, 2012 20:14
The biggest adversity for Afghanistan are the pashtuns.

If only Tajiks and Uzbeks were living in Afghanistan that country would be one of the most developed in the region. However the pashtuns destroy it with their militant and radical behaviour.

The north during the reign of Ahmad Shah Massoud or Abdul Rashid Dostum was by far a better place then the south inhabited by mad islamist pashtuns.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
October 28, 2012 08:30
:-)))) Zoltan, you are a genious!!! You have finally found the solution that so many before you were looking for: just remove all the pashtuns, let Tajiks and Uzbeks govern and all the problems of Afghanistan will be solved :-))). I am sure that YOU will be the next year's Nobel Peace Prize winner :-)).

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