Pakistan Warns Afghan Taliban against Protecting TTP Militants

A violation of the Doha Agreement 

Pakistan had played a key role in connection with the agreement signed between the USA and the Taliban on 29 February 2020 in Doha, the capital of Qatar, which resulted in the withdrawal of the NATO forces from Afghanistan.

US top officials, including her special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad. had appreciated Islamabad in this regard.

In the agreement, it was stated that the Taliban would not allow Al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to use Afghan soil to conduct attacks against the countries neighbouring Afghanistan and on Western forces.

After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership repeatedly urged the US-led international community to assist the people of Afghanistan by addressing their humanitarian needs, and to restore their financial and economic aid, as a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was essential for the stability in Pakistan as well as the entire region, including the West.

At this critical juncture, Pakistan is facing multiple problems and crises internally and externally, which are increasing political and economic instability in the country. From time to time, security forces, especially the Army, are contesting terrorists’ attacks in various regions of the country. Besides killing the militants, some Army soldiers are, also, being martyred in exchange of fire. So, Islamabad should not lose its patience with the Afghan Taliban’s inaction. Otherwise, the TTP which has connections with India and other anti-Pakistan terror outfits will further worsen Pak-Afghan ties

Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan increased in the post-Taliban takeover. The then Prime Minister Imran Khan on 23 November 2021 had ordered immediate shipment of humanitarian assistance of Rs. 5 billion to Kabul.

Setting aside Islamabad’s efforts regarding the Doha agreement and aid to Afghanistan, the interim Afghan government failed in stopping cross-border terror attacks in Pakistan.

In this context, in a news release, military’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) revealed that the security forces on 12 December 2023 killed 27 terrorists in various intelligence-based operations, conducted to contain the increased activities of terrorists in Dera Ismail Khan District, while successfully thwarting insurgents’ attacks at a military post in Daraban area —23 brave soldiers embraced martyrdom.

The Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), a terrorist outfit affiliated with the Afghanistan-based Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which emerged on the scene in February this year, took responsibility for the Dera Ismail Khan attack.

Hours after the assault, the Foreign Secretary called in the Afghan chargé d’affaires to deliver Pakistan’s strong demarche. He was asked to immediately convey to the Afghan government to fully investigate and take stern action against perpetrators of the recent attack, demanding, verifiable actions against all terrorist groups— their sanctuaries; that it apprehend and hand over the perpetrators and the TTP leadership in Afghanistan to the Government of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a terrorist assault unfolded at a police line in Tank, marked by a relentless six-hour exchange of fire between the security forces and the assailants since the wee hours of December 15, this year. Three brave policemen were martyred and three terrorists who were present within the police line territory were eliminated.

In fact, in the recent months, Pakistan witnessed a new wave of terror-attacks by the TTP, particularly in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan after the TTP ended its ceasefire with the government in November last year. The TTP terrorists targeted the installations of the security forces as well as their convoys.

In this respect, the report released by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on March 29 disclosed: “Militants who carry out attacks inside Pakistan have obtained US weapons left behind in Afghanistan… US weapons have boosted the military capabilities of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Baloch separatist groups…The Afghan Taliban seized the arms”.

Kabul, for its part, denies the charge.

The reality has been starkly different, as attacks have surged in Pakistan in the past two years.

According to the Islamabad-based think tank, “January this year was the deadliest month in Pakistan since July 2018, with 134 people killed and 254 injured in 44 attacks across the country”.

Besides other terror assaults, at least 44 persons were killed in suicide attack at the rally of the JUI(F) on July 30 in the outskirts of Khar in Bajaur district, which borders Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar stated on November 8, this year: “Since the Taliban have come to power, the terrorist incidents increased in Pakistan by 65 percent, while the suicide attacks have increased by 500 percent…the interim Afghanistan administration is providing support to the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan, which is using Afghan soil against Pakistan…We shared all the details with the Afghan interim government, but they did not take action against TTP terrorists”.

Earlier, a high-level Pakistani delegation led by the then Defense Minister Khawaja Asif along with ISI chief Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum, visited Kabul on February 22 with the main agenda of countering terrorism and the use of Afghanistan soil by the TTP militants. GDI, the Afghan intelligence agency, briefed the Pakistani delegation and accepted the problem of terrorism originating from Afghanistan soil and pledged to take action.

However, giving a November 1 deadline, Pakistan on October 3 ordered all illegal immigrants, including 1.73 million Afghan nationals, to leave the country or face expulsion after revealing that 14 of 24 suicide bombings in the country in 2023 were carried out by Afghan nationals. Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch clarified that the decision to deport illegal residents was not specifically targeted at the Afghan refugees, but against all immigrants residing in the country illegally without valid visa documents— the operation was not against the Afghan refugees living legally— the country had been hosting them for several decades despite its economic constraints.

Referring to the TTP militant group, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir who met the interim Foreign Minister of the Taliban government in Rawalpindi on July 14, this year threatened Kabul with an effective response— Pakistan has “serious concerns on the safe havens and liberty of action available to the TTP in Afghanistan”.

As regards the terror assaults in Chitral, the ISPR on September 10 pointed out in a statement: “A large group of “terrorists had attacked two military check posts in Chitral district…Four soldiers were martyred…Twelve terrorists associated with outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan were also killed during the clashes”.

And the tactical alliance between some Baloch separatist groups and the TTP is most alarming.

Despite the denial of the Afghan administration, reports suggest that TTP terrorists are still being sheltered by the conservative Islamic regime. Hence, Islamabad’s stance has become very tough towards the Afghan Taliban rulers after the latest upsurge of terror attacks by the TTP.

Last year, Pakistan targeted militant sanctuaries based in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nangarhar provinces.

It is mentionable that Pakistan’s Armed Forces and premier intelligence agency, the ISI, have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists. Peace has been restored in Balochistan, Karachi and other vulnerable regions.

But, in the recent past, terrorist attacks particularly in Balochistan show that external spy agencies, especially RAW, want to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In this context, in November 2020 at a joint press conference and a joint press briefing, the then DG of ISPR Major-General Babar Iftikhar and the ex-Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had unveiled a dossier containing “irrefutable evidence” of India’s sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan.

It notable that the TTP is designated a global terrorist organisation by Pakistan, the USA and the United Nations.

So, Pakistan needs to develop a global or regional consensus in order to force the Taliban regime to abandon its patronage of the TTP which also presents a serious threat to Afghanistan’s own security and that of other regional countries.

At this critical juncture, Pakistan is facing multiple problems and crises internally and externally, which are increasing political and economic instability in the country. From time to time, security forces, especially the Army, are contesting terrorists’ attacks in various regions of the country. Besides killing the militants, some Army soldiers are, also, being martyred in exchange of fire. So, Islamabad should not lose its patience with the Afghan Taliban’s inaction. Otherwise, the TTP which has connections with India and other anti-Pakistan terror outfits will further worsen Pak-Afghan ties.

Sajjad Shaukat
Sajjad Shaukat
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations and can be reached at [email protected]

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