Pakistan recruits thousands more troops to guard Afghan border

Pakistan will reinforce its Afghan border with tens of thousands of additional troops to curb the flow of militants.

Up to 60,000 paramilitaries are being raised to step up patrols along the porous, mountainous border which is notorious for smuggling and infiltration by insurgents.

The recruitment to Pakistan’s Frontier Corps comes as the country builds a fence along the 2,300-kilometre boundary to increase security.

About 40 per cent of the new paramilitaries have already been recruited, military officials said.

Pakistani military officials said the reinforcements would deter infiltration from Afghanistan where militant groups including the Pakistan Taliban are in hiding.

But they also come after years of demands from America and Afghanistan to tighten border security and prevent Afghan Taliban insurgents operating from safe havens inside Pakistan.

“This is a really significant step by the Pakistan military to highlight their growing concerns over infiltration of militants and others from across the border,” said Viraj Solanki of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank.

Pakistan’s army has 661,000 regular and paramilitary troops and has previously focused its defences largely on the eastern border with India, with which it has fought three wars since the two countries achieved independence in 1947.

“There are major concerns over the Afghan border, and these troops will go some way to addressing that,” he said.

The Pakistani Taliban have largely been pushed out of the country by military operations and have taken refuge in eastern Afghanistan. Other extremist groups such as ISIS also operate over the Afghan border. Security in Pakistan has improved in recent years, although last month’s election campaign saw about 200 people killed in bombing attacks.