On 2 August Washington announced the expansion of its resettlement programme for Afghans who aided US troops in the country amid the growing Taliban threat.
Despite the reluctance of Pakistan’s government, the United States has told Islamabad to keep its “borders open” so that Afghan refugees can enter the country.
According to experts, the move is likely to strain already tense relations between the two nations.
Pakistani newspaper The Dawn reported that a senior US State Department official, while briefing journalists on the new US refugee admission programme for Afghan nationals, said, “In a place like Pakistan, it’ll be important that their borders remain open.”
“Obviously, if people go north or if they go via Iran to Turkey, they have an opportunity both to enter the country as well as register with either the government or with UNHCR,” the official was quoted as saying.
The US widened eligibility for priority refugee admission for thousands more Afghans who worked with US forces but are not eligible for special immigrant visas (SIV).
The move was rejected by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday after Ankara blamed Washington for floating the plan without “prior consultations,” and argued that it could lead to a “major refugee crisis” in the region.
Turkey has suggested that the “US may directly transport these people by plane.”
For its part, Pakistan says it cannot accommodate more Afghan refugees.
Dr. Moeed W. Yusuf, Pakistan’s national security advisor, said in a press conference during his visit to the US on 1 August that his country was “not in a position to bear anymore burden of refugees.”
Yusuf called for “safe zones to be established in Afghanistan for the refugees” who have been displaced during the war with the Taliban*. “Why make them homeless? Make arrangements for them inside their country,” he said.
Commenting on the development, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal told Sputnik, “The US and the Pakistan have been discussing their relationship recently with the NSA saying that the US President has not called the Pakistan PM.”
“Obviously there are discordant chords but the issue of keeping borders open for refugees is an issue with a discordant note of a smaller order. There are a much larger issues also like Pakistan’s influence on the Taliban. Also, if the conflict continues there will be much larger inflow of refugees,” he added.
The Pakistan government has said that the country already hosts more than three million Afghan refugees, half of whom are unregistered with the authorities.
With heavy fighting reported along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, hundreds of people have fled their homes are seeking shelter in Pakistan, local media claim.
The two countries share a 2,640 km boundary, with Pakistan fencing nearly 90 percent of the border and deploying soldiers along it.
Pakistan has estimated that it will receive as many as 700,000 new refugees from Afghanistan in the next 12 months.
In an interview with The New York Times, in June, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said that his country would not open its borders to refugees if the situation worsened in Afghanistan as Islamabad “does not want another influx of refugees.”
* The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries