Dozens of Afghan soldiers fled across the border into northwestern Pakistan after their border post was overrun, apparently by the Taliban, the Pakistani army said on Monday.
The statement said 46 members of the Afghan forces, including five officers, slipped across the border late on Sunday near the Pakistani border town of Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Afghan soldiers “have been provided food, shelter and necessary medical care as per established military norms,” the Pakistani army said, adding that it had informed Afghan authorities of the development.
The Afghan government on Monday denied its troops crossed into Pakistan.
“This issue is not true. No Afghan military personnel have taken refuge in Pakistan, the sensitivity that all Afghans have against Pakistan and especially our military, is clear to all,” General Ajmal Omer Shinwari, spokesman for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, told a news conference in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
However, Pakistan’s military early yesterday distributed a video of Afghan soldiers in uniform being greeted by Pakistani troops.
An accompanying statement read: “The said soldiers have now been amicably returned to Afghan authorities on their request along with their weapons and equipment. Pakistan will continue to extend all kinds of support to our Afghan brethren in time of need.”
Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan provided information about fighting on the Afghan side of the border. Pakistan’s military dismissed the Afghan denial.
The Taliban have in the past few weeks swiftly captured territory in Afghanistan, and seized strategic border crossings with several neighboring countries. They are also threatening a number of provincial capitals — advances that come as the last US and NATO soldiers complete their final withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The insurgents are said to control about half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers. The rapid fall of districts and the seemingly disheartened response by Afghan government forces have prompted US-allied warlords to resurrect militias with a violent history.
For many Afghans weary of more than four decades of wars and conflict, fears are rising of another brutal civil war as US and NATO troops leave the country.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan — long fraught with suspicion and deep mistrust — deteriorated further when the Taliban overran the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak earlier this month.
Taliban fighters at the time were seen receiving medical treatment in a Pakistani hospital in the town of Chaman, across the border from Spin Boldak.
Pakistan has dismissed allegations of aiding the Taliban, saying that it succeeded in pressuring the insurgents into peace talks last year.
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