WASHINGTON, Aug 28: The United States finds itself embroiled in a 100-year-old dispute between Afghanistan and Pakistan but does not have the expertise or the desire to resolve it, officials told Dawn on Thursday.
The dispute resolves around the so-called Durand Line, named after a British colonial official, that marks the present day border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The present day Afghan government says that the agreement reached between their King Abdur Rahman Khan and British colonial official Sir Henry Mortimer Durand in 1893 was for 100 years only and has expired in 1993.
The Afghans are now asking the United States to renegotiate the border and some Afghan officials have already issued a new map that shows such major Pakistani cities as Peshawar and Quetta in Afghanistan.
The issue has already caused several skirmishes between Pakistan and Afghanistan and has forced the United States to form a tripartite commission to resolve border disputes between its two allies.
The commission, which also includes the United States, has already held three meetings and officials in Washington say that they expect the Durand Line issue also to dominate the fourth meeting, scheduled in the second week of September in Rawalpindi.
Officials in Washington say that in the previous meetings the US administration had made it clear to both sides that it has no desire to get involved in re-negotiating a deal made more than a 100 years ago between Afghanistan and Britain.
“The best we can do is to help the two countries re-position small border posts here and there but we are not there to re-write the history,” said a senior US official while talking to Dawn.
In its last meeting the tripartite commission had asked its sub-committee to continue with deliberations on proposals to sort out disputes over some border posts. The commission also established a hotline between Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent further armed clashes between the two countries. The hotline also allows the two US allies to stay in touch with US military officials based in the region.
But diplomatic sources in Washington say that Afghanistan wants more. The sources say that Kabul has officially asked the United States to use its influence on Pakistan to force it to re-demarcate the Durand Line.
Islamabad, however, has already rejected this demand saying that the Durand Line is a settled issue and it has no desire to re-open it.
Informally, Pakistani officials are believed to have complained to the United States that they believe India is using its influence on the Northern Alliance, which dominates the present government in Kabul and has close ties to New Delhi, to revive an old and settled issue.