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Dozens Of Afghan Soldiers Flee Into Pakistan Amid Taliban Advances

Pakistani security officials patrol the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan at Chaman on July 17 after it was closed following clashes between Afghan security forces and Taliban militants.

Pakistan's army says 46 Afghan soldiers crossed the border and were granted refuge in the country after losing their positions to advancing Taliban militants.

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

The Afghan military commander requested refuge at the border crossing in Chitral in the north, the Pakistani Army said in a statement. Chitral shares a border with the three Afghan provinces of Kunar, Badakhshan, and Nuristan.

"These Afghan soldiers arrived at Arundu sector, Chitral late last night. After contact with Afghan authorities and necessary military procedures, 46 soldiers including five officers have been given refuge [and] safe passage into Pakistan," the statement said.

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

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

The move comes at a time of rising tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with Kabul recalling its envoy from Islamabad after the brief kidnapping of the his daughter in the Pakistani capital earlier this month.

Afghanistan has also accused Islamabad of secretly aiding the Taliban, allowing wounded militants to cross into Pakistan for medical treatment.

The Taliban has stepped up its offensive across Afghanistan since the United States announced in April that it would withdraw its troops by the end of August, ending a 20-year foreign military presence.

Militants have captured the Spin Boldak district, where one of the country's main border and trade crossings with Pakistan is located.

The Taliban and Afghan government officials met for talks in Qatari capital Doha on July 17, but little came out of the meeting besides promises of more talks.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and
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