The Taliban and TTP: Bond Beyond Breakage?

The Taliban have already withstood much pressure to protect the TTP

The fall of Kabul in 2021 was fast followed by the resurgence of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan which sent waves of terror across the whole of Pakistan. The TTP is now inside a safe stronghold with all competition crushed.

Pakistan, being first on their target list, is now working hard to pressure the Afghan Taliban to stop the TTP militants from operating through Afghanistan. Pakistan has tried halting trade, expelling refugees, and even launching counterterrorism missions. However, the Taliban vehemently denied TTP guilt, and instead shifted the blame to Pakistan for its failure to maintain security. The reason is clear: The Taliban will not negotiate because the TTP is their backbone, playing a crucial part in their military and the government.

Being landlocked, Afghanistan depended entirely on Pakistani ports to access international markets. About 80 percent of Afghanistan’s trade passed through it since 2010. Surprisingly, the Taliban even decided to spit on this gold mine instantly for the sake of TTP. To disrupt this reliance, they have now committed to invest $35 million in Iran’s Chabahar seaport. The Taliban have started to prioritize business with India and China, as food trade with India increased by 43 percent last year to $578 million. Also, a Chinese petroleum company will invest $540 million over 25 years, with $49 million invested already. These developments indicate the Taliban’s disinterest in negotiating with Pakistan and give a signal that the Taliban are going to allow TTP to go on operating in Pakistan.

In this era of globalization and asymmetric warfare, our world has become a web of terrorist organizations. TTP as an offshoot of ‘Al-Qaeda’, is poised to establish its links around the world using Afghanistan’s legal channels. Not only Pakistan should be wary, but other regional states like China, India and Iran should also practise caution with the Taliban, considering the TTP and its Ideological goals

Moreover, the words of senior Taliban officials also indicate dissatisfaction towards Pakistan, providing a signal that Pakistan must be careful regarding its security while considering the TTP. It appears that historical allies are at war with each other, considering the death toll of 2023. About 1524 people died from 789 terrorist attacks, according to a think tank report, and dozens of further TTP attacks have occurred since the start of 2024.  Furthermore, a UNSC report published on 23 January sheds light on the fact that the Taliban have been actively supporting the TTP by providing them with sniper rifles, advanced firearms, and even night vision equipment. They are also paying $50,500 monthly to TTP leader Noor Wali Mehsud; it should not be difficult for the reader to conclude that it is all directed towards Pakistan.

The Taliban have a long-standing tactic of deceiving Pakistan by temporarily detaining TTP fighters, only to release them later and celebrate their freedom. It is disheartening to see the governor of Kandahar extend congratulations to Pakistan and express optimism for friendly relations, only to be met with a suicide bombing on a Pakistani military post on March 16. This incident highlights the double standards of the Taliban leadership, mirroring the approach taken by their TTP counterparts who employ a strategy of both attacking and negotiating. The Taliban strategically utilize the issues of Afghan refugees, the FATA merger reversal in KPK, and the status of the Durand Line, as cards in their political game.

Most people overlook that the TTP is inspired by Al-Qaeda. With Al-Qaeda stripped of its strong leadership, the TTP represents a strong hope of continuing its legacy. The UNSC report mentioned above also discusses Al-Qaeda donating vehicles and establishing eight training camps for TTP in Afghanistan. Their goal is to create an emirate in the KPK province and further expand into India, Iran, China, Bangladesh and even Jerusalem.

It is important for the public to understand that the Taliban harboured resentment towards Pakistan for its support of NATO. To address this grievance, Pakistan altered its stance with the assistance of the Taliban’s mission to regain control over Afghanistan. However, the Taliban have begun betraying Pakistan by aligning themselves with the TTP, despite the absence of NATO forces. The reason is their rigid extremist ideology, fueled by an imperialist agenda which drives their actions.

The TTP has now founded a cover organization, Tehrik-e-Jihad Pakistan, to avoid responsibility for its suicide bombings. It also backs anti-Shia militants in Balochistan and provides them with a haven in Afghanistan, which in turn, has the potential for destabilizing Iran as well. Given their anti-Shia ideology and hatred for other religions, others in the world must know that after Pakistan, the TTP will surely come for them. They also avoid attending forums where human rights are discussed, and their absence from the UN meeting in Doha is a fresh example. The Taliban’s actions demonstrate they continue to follow the extremist ideology of Al-Qaeda. Improved intelligence sharing between Pakistan and regional partners can help disrupt TTP activity, and educating people regarding the ideological roots of the Taliban is also critical to disrupt their propaganda.In this era of globalization and asymmetric warfare, our world has become a web of terrorist organizations. TTP as an offshoot of ‘Al-Qaeda’, is poised to establish its links around the world using Afghanistan’s legal channels. Not only Pakistan should be wary, but other regional states like China, India and Iran should also practise caution with the Taliban, considering the TTP and its Ideological goals.

Ahsan Khan Niazi
Ahsan Khan Niazi
The writer is a freelance columnist

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