Afghan soldiers seek refuge in Pakistan

A group of 46 Afghan soldiers sought refuge in Pakistan after the Taliban took border posts.
A group of 46 Afghan soldiers sought refuge in Pakistan after the Taliban took border posts.

Pakistan's army says 46 Afghan soldiers have sought refuge in the country after losing control of military positions across the border following advances by Taliban insurgents.

Hundreds of Afghan army soldiers and civil officials have fled to neighbouring Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan in recent weeks after Taliban offensives in border areas.

The Afghan military commander requested refuge at the border crossing in Chitral in the north, the Pakistan army said in a statement, adding the soldiers were given safe passage into Pakistan on Sunday night after clearance from Afghan authorities.

"Afghan soldiers have been provided food, shelter and necessary medical care as per established military norms," the statement said.

The move comes at a time of poor relations between the neighbours. Afghanistan recalled its diplomats from Pakistan after the brief kidnapping of the Afghan ambassador's daughter in Islamabad earlier in the month.

The Taliban has escalated its offensive since the United States announced in April that it would withdraw its troops by September, ending a 20-year foreign military presence.

Washington has said it will continue to carry out air strikes to support Afghan forces facing insurgent attacks.

Afghan government and Taliban negotiators have met in Qatar's capital, Doha, in recent weeks, although diplomats say there have been few signs of substantive progress since peace talks began in September.

Reeling from battlefield losses, Afghanistan's military is overhauling its war strategy against the Taliban to concentrate forces around critical areas like Kabul and other cities, border crossings and vital infrastructure, Afghan and US officials have said.

The Pakistan army said the soldiers who sought refuge will be returned to Afghanistan after due process as was another batch of 35 soldiers earlier in July.

Australian Associated Press