There has been a surge in terror attacks in Pakistan which have been attributed to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP carries out almost daily attacks against security forces in North Waziristan and surrounding districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan. This has heightened tensions between the two neighbors. Defense Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Asif has charged the Taliban regime with violating the Doha Agreement and the rights of its neighbors.
Asim Munir, the head of the Pakistani army, recently expressed his grave concern over Pakistani Taliban members being housed in Afghanistan. The Taliban and the Americans came to an agreement in the Doha talks, promising not to use Afghan territory to attack neighboring countries and to stop terrorist organizations from operating there.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, addressed the media in response to Pakistan’s assertions and reaffirmed that his de facto administration is dedicated to the Doha Agreement, views Pakistan as a friendly country, and ensures that Afghan territory won’t be used against Pakistan. He asserted that Pakistan has not produced any proof that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are operating from Afghanistan. According to Afghan Taliban, TTP is operating from Pakistani safe havens and Afghanistan has nothing to do with those. These remarks were made in response to a Baluchistan incident that resulted in the deaths of nine Pakistani soldiers, underscoring the pressing need for a solution. Khawaja Asif, however, is adamant that the terrorists behind attacks in Pakistan are currently being protected in Afghanistan.
Additionally, the chief of the Pakistani army has demanded that specific operations be carried out against TTP strongholds in Afghanistan. The objective is to stop the TTP’s activities and address the security threat they pose.
These developments highlight the complicated relationship between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the TTP as each of them tries to assert their dominance and try to shift the blame on each other without any concrete steps being taken. Pakistan cannot completely put the blame for the actions of TTP on the Afghan Taliban. Over the last three decades, Pakistan has created a conducive environment for terror organizations to thrive in their territory at ease. It had proved a safe haven for Osama bin Laden. Unless Pakistan is able to change this aspect internally, the reach of TTP cannot be stopped.
The talks between Pakistani officials and TTP representatives as facilitated by Taliban government on numerous occasions in Kabul did not result in any tangible results for Pakistan. On the other hand, it created space for TTP to grow its organization in terms of resources and also recruitment. They have gained considerable membership among the radical population in Pakistan.
Pakistan appears to be not ready to accept this internal issue. The political establishment in Pakistan including their foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto and also the Pakistan army has time and again threatened the Afghan Taliban that Pakistan has the authority to take action against the TTP outside of its borders. However, nothing happened on the ground. Pakistan appears to have lost its original control of the Taliban. With the economy under complete default, Pakistan’s usefulness to the Taliban is null and the Taliban is now trying to reach out to other countries for recognition and financial support. This has tied the hands of Pakistan from taking any offensive action within the territory of Afghanistan, despite the presence of TTP fighters on the Afghan side of the borders.
According to reports, TTP fighters are mainly found in Afghanistan’s eastern border regions, where they receive funding from donations gathered in various border regions. Yad Mohammad, a local resident, claimed that TTP members openly solicit money for jihad in mosques, with the donations being facilitated by people like Chanda, a local initiative for community fundraising. It is believed that the Taliban both do not forbid and, to some extent, support such fundraising campaigns.
Recent unconfirmed reports of an attack near Jalalabad that injured the TTP leader Mufti Noor Wali and two of his fighters bring up the differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan regarding the Pakistani Taliban. Sami Yousafzai, a journalist, tweeted this information, but it hasn’t been verified by authoritative sources.
According to a member of the Doha talks with the Taliban, Pakistan uses the existence of the Pakistani Taliban as a justification to advance its own objectives in the region. It supported the Afghan Taliban when TTP was formed in 2007 as the initial focus was to recruit radical fighters for the attack against the US and the previous Afghan administration.
The TTP and the Afghan Taliban hold similar political views. As soon as they came into power, the Afghan Taliban openly made accommodations for the TTP by freeing their prisoners who had been held by the previous Afghan administration. Although it is still a mystery to most people, it is rumored that the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban have sworn allegiance to the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah and agreed to follow his orders. It is quite evident that TTP has enjoyed greater operational freedom and intensified cross-border terrorism since the Taliban seized power in Kabul. Possibly in hindsight, Pakistan is now paying the price for its support for similar terror attacks carried out by Afghan Taliban in various cities of Afghanistan during the previous regime.
lhamuddin Afghan is a university professor based in Afghanistan.
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