|History and Biodata
The Durand Line, which serves as the de facto border between the two countries, is about 2,400 kilometres long and passes through a third of Afghanistan’s provinces. It is non-demarcated and extremely porous, arbitrarily dividing communities who continue to maintain relations across the line.
According to a former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, Rustam Shah Mohmand, there are 235 crossing points along the border, which translates into almost one crossing point per 10 kilometres. Only 20 of them are used frequently and only two of them have all the essential border controls in place, such as immigration, customs and security checkpoints.
These are the most frequented: one is the Torkham Gate in eastern Nangarhar province and the other is the Wesh–Chaman Gate in the southern Kandahar province. While these two crossing points are used by people from across Afghanistan, the 18 other frequently used crossings are used mostly by the local population on both sides of the line and are motorable. They are also used by smugglers and traffickers of illicit drugs, as well as by militants fighting in both countries who want to reach major urban centres in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The rest of the crossing points are mostly local trails connecting one community or part of a community to another, but they do not usually lead to major cities in either Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The multiplicity of routes along the long, porous Durand Line and the rugged terrain it runs through have long made it, in practice, impossible to completely ‘seal’. Long before the current wave of insurgency, in the 1980s, demands to seal the border were much stronger than they are now. Then, anti-government mujahedin insurgents regularly moved across the Durand Line to launch attacks inside Afghanistan. Like the Taleban, the mujahedin used Pakistan as a sanctuary, training centre and supply base, but in a much more open, public way. The then government in Kabul with support from the Soviet Union tried much harder to stop the cross-border movement of fighters and weapons. They failed. A declassified CIA report from 1981 concluded that closing the border to insurgent infiltration was not feasible unless the Soviets and the government in Kabul conducted massive and long-term operations and put in far greater resources than the Soviets were then doing. Taleban ‘commuting’ is therefore a time-honoured technique and its effectiveness well-proven.
Two Examples for border crossing points: the Baramcha and the Badini crossing points:
The Bahramcha crossing point
Located in Helmand’s remote Dishu district, the Bahramcha crossing point is 300 kilometres south of the provincial capital, Lashkargar. The border passing through Dishu is 163 kilometres long. On the Pakistani side of the border line lies the Girdi Jungle town of Balochistan province. The majority of the population on both sides are Pashtun and Ishaqzai by tribe. Dishu has been out of the control of the Afghan government since as early as 2003.
The wider area in which the Bahramcha crossing point is located saw some of the earliest signs of insurgency, starting in 2002, a year after the fall of the Taleban, according to the memoirs of one of its participants. Neither the Afghan government, nor the Pakistani authorities have any offices for registering the movement of people and supplies in Bahramcha. It is used both as a foot and motor crossing. It is the most used route for drug trafficking in Afghanistan and the border area hosts one of the biggest networks of heroin labs. The terrain is divided between sandy and mountainous environments.
Bahramcha is one of the most important crossing points for Taleban fighters, especially those from the south and south-western, as well as western provinces, such as Helmand, Farah, Nimroz, Herat and Ghor. (Kandahari and Uruzgani Taleban mostly use a crossing point in the Registan district in Kandahar province). Bahramcha and the broader Dishu district is lawless in terms of there not being a regular government, leaving the area to be ruled by the shadow government of the Taleban. The insurgent movement is in control of the drug market and its lucrative tax flow. Bahramcha is not only a major hub of drug processing labs, but also home to Taleban training camps and bomb production factories. This infrastructure supplies the Taleban battlefield in Helmand as well as in neighbouring Farah and Nimroz provinces.
The Badini crossing point
Named after the area on the Pakistani side of the border, the Badini crossing point is located in the Shamulzai district of Zabul province. It borders Zhob district of Balochistan province on the Pakistani side and is located about 75 kilometres south of Qalat, the provincial capital of Zabul. According to a former Taleban official who was in charge of customs in Badini during the Taleban regime, this crossing point used to have all the usual border controls. During the Taleban era, he said, it was manned by security posts and goods were checked for customs.
After the fall of the Taleban in 2001, it seems the Afghan government has since tried to maintain active checkpoints here, manned by the Afghan National Border Police (ANBP). However, the number of the forces deployed is limited and does not cover all the motorable trails which travellers could take to cross the de facto border. This crossing serves as the most accessible and favourite entryway for the Taleban of Zabul and Ghazni and parts of Uruzgan, Wardak and Paktika provinces. It connects these provinces directly to a town known for being home to many Taleban in Pakistan, Kuchlak, 25 kilometres north of Quetta. There is a significant overlap in the tribal makeup of the local population on both sides of the line, with Kakar Pashtuns in the majority.
The Taleban have used the Badini crossing point since the insurgency kicked off in nearby provinces, from around 2005. One Taleban fighter, who travelled to Pakistan using this crossing point in 2010, said he did not see the Afghan National Border Police or any other security force at the crossing point. When he got to the Pakistani side, he said there were Pakistani border police, who let him and his comrades continue their trip unhindered. “The Pakistani border police did not stop us,” he said. “They just waved to us as a sign of welcome. We moved on with our motorbikes to reach Quetta. No one stopped us along the way.”
Taleban fighters usually pass the Badini crossing point in convoys of cars or motorbikes. For the wounded, if they can not be treated in local or regional hospitals inside Afghanistan, such as the major hospital hub in the Nawa district of Ghazni province, they are taken to Pakistan using Badini.
The wider Badini area has also attracted the attention of government officials in the south because of what they say is the existence of Taleban training camps on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. The police chief of Kandahar, General Abdul Raziq, said in 2011 that the Taleban had training camps on the Pakistani side of the border near Badini. Raziq said that Taleban fighters were getting training not far from the eyes of the Pakistani police, one near the crossing and another nearby in Qamaruddin Karez and then were being sent to Afghanistan to fight.
Like other crossing points, Badini also has a history of cross-border movement from the 1980s, during the mujahiden insurgency against the Soviets. The mujahiden of the southern front, specifically Zabul, Ghazni, Uruzgan and partly Wardak provinces got their supplies from Pakistan and moved their men across the border using Badini. The border area remained out of the control of the then Soviet-backed government. Civilians from the same set of provinces also used this crossing point to flee to Pakistan.
see also: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000515451.pdf