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IMMINENT WARNING: PAKISTAN OPENS NEW BORDER CROSSINGS, CONTINUES TO REMOVE UNDOCUMENTED AFGHANS

November 13, 2023

Kyle Dillon, Flavie Curinier, Sebastien Chapel, CENTCOM/AFRICOM Team

Brantley Williams, Alya Fathia Fitri, Editor; Radhika Ramalinga Venkatachalam, Evan Beachler, Senior Editor


Map Of Afghanistan And Pakistan Border[1]


Event: On November 13, Pakistan opened three new border crossings, accelerating the removal of illegal Afghans residing in the country. This general initiative impacts around one million undocumented Afghans and hundreds of thousands of refugees who have already moved across the border voluntarily. The deadline to voluntarily leave the country expired on November 1, and Pakistan has begun deportation operations despite the Taliban requesting that Afghan refugees have more time to repatriate. Pakistan has ignored recommendations from the UN and Western countries to reconsider its plan to limit the threat to those who risk persecution in Afghanistan.[2] These include women’s rights activists and those who supported the US-backed government before the 2021 Taliban takeover.[3] There are growing concerns that this forced migration will escalate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.[4] Pakistan’s strategy coincides with a rise in domestic insecurity as there has been an increase in Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) attacks, a close ally of the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan alleges that the Afghan Taliban provides a safe haven for the TTP and that some of these undocumented Afghans are responsible for the growing number of attacks.[5]


Significance: The deportation of undocumented Afghan refugees from Pakistan will almost certainly continue at accelerating rates. The Pakistani government linking this objective to a matter of national security likely increases the difficulty of the international community in implementing significant pressure besides statements. Pakistan is likely using the current focus of the international community on specific conflicts to continue with this aggressive relocation. The end of the voluntary withdrawal period will very likely incentivize Pakistani security forces to utilize repressive measures toward the remaining Afghans. These measures will likely include indiscriminate raids, confiscation of financial assets and property, abuse in detainment, and the continuance of forced relocation operations. These actions and the general initiative of forced relocation will almost certainly increase the radicalization of certain Afghans and hostility toward Pakistan. This maneuver will almost certainly deteriorate relations between the Taliban and the Pakistani government, considering the offloaded pressure to deal with the extensive number of refugees and the likely worsening of their treatments. There is a roughly even chance that the Taliban is attempting to appeal to the international community to lessen economic and political isolation by taking in these refugees while Pakistan is worsening its position. The Taliban will likely face challenges related to repatriation and resource provision to the refugees due to the existing humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan. International aid agencies will likely be hesitant to support the Taliban due to its women’s rights abuses. The Taliban will likely increase diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to extend the deportation timeline as the approaching winter would likely prove more challenging for the refugees. There is a roughly even chance that this instability in the border region will distract the parties involved from implementing effective security. There is a roughly even chance that the TTP and other militant groups will take advantage of the vulnerable population on the border and carry out attacks. The worsening relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan will likely limit collaboration in counterterrorism efforts and other regional issues.


Recommendations

  • The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that regional NGOs and international aid organizations assist the Afghan refugees. CTG recommends that aid transportation to the border region is unrestricted by the parties involved and that the assistance remains free-flowing.

  • CTG recommends that participating agencies and organizations remain cognizant of the necessary supplies, considering the approaching winter. CTG recommends that this aid be tracked by either humanitarian organizations or international institutions to ensure it is not falling into the grasp of militants.

  • CTG recommends sending mental health and physical health professionals, considering the traumatic experiences of forced removal and the correlating abuses.

  • CTG recommends that the Pakistani government abide by the principle of the UN Convention Against Torture, which the country ratified to protect against the forcible repatriation of vulnerable groups. CTG recommends that the international community monitor the conditions of communities at risk, such as women, the LGBTQ+ community, human rights activists, journalists, and those who supported the US-backed Afghan government. CTG recommends continual monitoring of the refugee population moving into Afghanistan to ensure they don’t face abuses under the Taliban.

  • CTG recommends that international human rights organizations increase monitoring and reporting on the treatment of Afghan refugees in Pakistan for potential human rights violations.

  • CTG recommends that the US, Canada, and EU member-states accelerate the resettlement process to avoid the exploitation of vulnerable populations by either Pakistan’s security forces, the Afghan Taliban, or militant groups.

  • CTG recommends that neighboring countries, the UN, and other international governmental bodies condemn Pakistan’s actions and open dialogue to mitigate regional tensions. CTG recommends that regional powers remain cognizant of the situation and intervene, if necessary, with diplomatic missions.

  • CTG recommends the strengthening of border security measures to prevent attacks from militants on the vulnerable population crossing into Afghanistan.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-2848 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com

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[2] Pakistan opens new border crossings to expedite Afghans' repatriation, Reuters, November 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-opens-new-border-crossings-expedite-afghans-repatriation-2023-11-13/

[3] Pakistan begins mass deportation of Afghan refugees, CBS News, November 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pakistan-afghanistan-refugees-deportation/

[4] Pakistan opens new border crossings to expedite Afghans' repatriation, Reuters, November 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-opens-new-border-crossings-expedite-afghans-repatriation-2023-11-13/

[5] Pakistan opens 3 new border crossings to deport Afghans in ongoing migrant crackdown, ABC News, November 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/pakistan-opens-3-new-border-crossings-deport-afghans-104841071

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