On December 12, a harrowing suicide bombing unfolded in northwestern Pakistan, claiming the lives of 23 soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks against Pakistani security forces in recent years. The Tehrik-e Jihad Pakistan (TJP), a relatively unknown militant group, asserted responsibility for the assault that occurred in the district of Dera Ismail Khan. Despite its lesser-known status, experts in Islamabad have alleged that the TJP serves as a front for the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban.
In the aftermath of this tragic incident, Islamabad issued a strongly worded message to the Afghan Taliban, demanding the extradition of TTP leaders allegedly taking refuge in Afghanistan. The severity of the situation even led a provincial Pakistani minister to call for potential retaliatory attacks within Afghanistan. Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief spokesman for the Taliban, pledged to investigate the matter. However, he reiterated Kabul’s stance that Afghanistan is not accountable for the security of Pakistan, emphasizing that the attack took place deep within Pakistani territory.
The suicide bombing has heightened tensions between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban, once staunch allies who have now soured relations due to the alleged harboring of the TTP leaders by the Afghan Taliban. Analysts indicate that Pakistan is under tremendous pressure internally on the political, economic, and security front. Pakistan Army is not able to control TTP and its unhindered access to the fragile provinces in Pakistan. It cannot be denied that Pakistan Army has been paying the price for their approach in selectively supporting and providing safe-haven for terror organisations to serve their interests. Interestingly, the emergence of the TJP in the past year has further complicated the situation for Pakistan as it is becoming increasingly difficult for Pakistan to pin the responsibility for terror attacks on TTP and the Afghan Taliban.
TJP’s involvement in several high-casualty attacks against Pakistani forces in recent months signifies a new phase in the TTP’s insurgency against Islamabad. Notably, these attacks have exclusively targeted security forces, a departure from the TTP’s previous strategy of attacking civilian targets.
There are no indications that the TJP, the TTP, or other militant groups operating in the region intend to ease their assaults against Pakistani forces. On December 15, three soldiers and three suspected militants lost their lives in attacks on a regional police headquarters and two military posts in northwest Pakistan. A newly surfaced armed group named Ansar al-Jihad claimed responsibility for these attacks.
In an apparent effort to garner support for what Islamabad deems its new domestic war on terrorism, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Asim Munir, is currently on a tour of Washington. Despite this, analysts harbor skepticism about the likelihood of substantial U.S. military support for Islamabad in its endeavors.
The suicide bombing in northwestern Pakistan has not only claimed the lives of numerous soldiers but has also exacerbated tensions between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. The evolving dynamics, including the emergence of the TJP and the Afghan Taliban’s alleged support for the TTP, have added complexity to an already volatile region. As Islamabad seeks international support for its counterterrorism efforts, the situation remains precarious, with the potential for further escalation in the ongoing conflict.
The author chooses a single pseudonym. Shinwari is a freelance journalist based in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible.