Islamabad has issued “official warning" to Kabul that any “move to dislodge Taliban" from its borders will be “faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force", claimed Afghanistan’s Vice President Amrullah Saleh, accusing the neighbours of providing “close air support" to the Islamic fundamentalist outfit.
“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," Saleh tweeted.
He further said that if anyone doubts his claim, he is ready to share evidence. “If anyone doubts my tweet on Pak Air Force & Pak Army warning to d Afg side not to retake Spin Boldak I am ready to share evidence through DM. Afghan aircrafts as far as 10 kilometers frm Spin Boldak R warned 2 back off or face air to air missiles. Afg is too big to be swallowed (sic)," the country’s vice president wrote.
Taliban fighters in Afghanistan had said on Wednesday they had taken control of one of the main border crossings with Pakistan, perhaps the most strategic objective they have captured so far in a rapid advance across the country as US forces pull out.
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A Pakistani official said fighters had taken down the Afghan government flag from atop the Friendship Gate at the border crossing between the Pakistani town of Chaman and the Afghan town of Wesh.
The crossing, south of Afghanistan’s main southern city Kandahar, is the landlocked country’s second busiest entry point and the main link between its vast southwest and Pakistani ports. Afghan government data show it is used by 900 trucks a day.
The takeover had forced Pakistan to seal parts of its border with Afghanistan after heavy fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces around Wesh.
Afghan officials said government forces had pushed back the Taliban fighters and were in control of the Spin Boldak border district in Kandahar province. But civilians and Pakistani officials said the Taliban controlled the Wesh border posts.
“Wesh, which has great importance in Afghan trade with Pakistan and other countries, has been captured by the Taliban," said a Pakistani security official deployed at the border area.
Officials in Chaman said the Taliban had suspended all travel through the gate. “The mujahideen have captured an important border town called Wesh," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
The Taliban, fighting to expel foreign forces and defeat the US-backed government in Kabul since they were ousted in 2001, have in recent days seized other major border crossings, in Herat, Farah and Kunduz provinces in the north and west.
Control of border posts allows the Taliban to collect revenue, said Shafiqullah Attai, chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment in the capital, Kabul.