The terrorist organization Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) has achieved a resurgence with a sharp increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, and some circles have got opportunity for threat exaggeration as well. However, this fact should not be neglected that security forces had already pushed TTP to the brink of defeat, and the current wave of its violence would be curbed with sustained intelligence-based operations of similar resolve. The attack on Mianwali Airbase, the ambush on a convoy of security forces in Gwadar, and clashes in DI Khan and Tirah Valley resulted in precious losses, but security forces also killed all terrorists involved in these attacks, and they busted terrorist networks in follow-up operations with success. Therefore, the beginning of the end for militants has started, and Pakistan’s increasing pressure on the Afghan Taliban to deny safe heavens to the TTP leadership and foot soldiers would certainly further shrink space for terrorists. As indicated by the TTP’s main demand to restore former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Pakistan has already denied it support base on its land by bringing these districts into the national mainstream.
There are a number of factors behind the recent surge in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The militants involved in these attacks were equipped with modern weapons, and they were better trained to conduct violence. It depicts that TTP and ISKP have access to additional training resources, a fact supported by a UN report indicating the establishment of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Moreover, Pakistan was already stressing to the international community that US and NATO leftover weaponry could fall into the hands of terrorists if it was not disposed of properly. It has further warned that these arms are not only a threat to Pakistan but that terrorists would also use them in attacks against the interests of other countries as well. Now, the arsenal recovered from the militants in recent attacks, which included RPG-7, AK-74, M-4, and M-16/A4 rifles, all of American origin, indicates that a worst-case scenario has become a reality. The availability of these weapons has escalated terrorist threats, making militants more lethal in Pakistan. A recent UN report further corroborated that Al-Qaeda, ISKP, and TTP are thriving in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The Taliban government’s inability to govern Afghanistan and lack of interest in checking militant outfits are responsible for it.
The success of the Afghan Taliban in forming a government in Kabul has reenergized militants, and all terrorist outfits idealize it. TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud is exploiting this idealism to motivate terrorists for an upsurge in violence in Pakistan. He identifies himself with the top leadership of the Afghan Taliban for his glorification, and he also announced the appointment of shadow governors for different regions of Pakistan, copying the playbook of the Afghan Taliban for success. Mehsud is a veteran Afghan Jihadi and an expert on urban terrorism. It is his leadership style that makes TTP once again a very potent terrorist outfit. His strong command of theology is a means of decisive leverage for full authority on the TTP cadre; hence, he has been able to unite disgruntled elements of militants to halt infighting.
As Noor Wali Mehsud is adopting TTP for emerging scenarios, reportedly, he is also closely working with the ISKP in Afghanistan to further complicate threats for Pakistan. Since the Afghan Taliban assumed power in Kabul in August 2021, there has been a 60% upsurge in terrorist attacks and a 500% increase in suicide bombings in Pakistan. Around 2200 Pakistanis became the casualties of these violent incidents. The violent and criminal expertise of Noor Wali and his control over TTP groups are responsible for Pakistan’s terrorist woes. When he was head of TTP’s Sindh branch, Karachi was suffering a lot due to his rampant terrorist and criminal activities. His militants were conducting bank robberies and kidnappings for ransom, and he was involved in the extortion of money and car lifting in the city. Therefore, neutralizing Noor Wali would only be a source of respite for Pakistanis.
As stated by Pakistan’s Special Envoy to Kabul, Asif Durrani, the TTP has around 6,000 militants under its command in Afghanistan. Despite Pakistan’s concerns, the Afghan Taliban has demonstrated no will to check TTP activities due to former jihadi bonds and tribal affiliations; perhaps some elements also consider TTP a bargaining tool in bilateral relations. Moreover, the attacks on border posts by TTP are aimed at achieving free movement across the border to perpetrate violence in Pakistan. This objective coincides with the Afghan Taliban’s design to move people and goods freely; therefore, they are doing little to check it. In this situation, for Pakistan, intelligence-based operations, decapitation efforts, strong border defenses, and inflicting a very heavy price on the Afghan Taliban for any lenient approach towards TTP would be an apt strategy to counter terrorism.
As Pakistan needs to put pressure on the Afghan Taliban to check the activities of TTP militants in Afghanistan, it has started the repatriation of illegal Afghan immigrants, which it has hosted for the last four decades. Unfortunately, 15 Afghan suicide bombers and 64 Afghan militants were involved in recent attacks; therefore, the government chose this course for the security of Pakistan. There are reports that the Afghan Taliban’s supreme commander, Mullah Habaitullah, prohibited terrorist attacks in Pakistan by a religious decree, and the Taliban government took some measures to limit the activities of TTP militants to conciliate Pakistan. However, Pakistan is cautiously observing the scope and actual ground effects of these steps on the border.
As the Afghan Taliban eliminate the terrorist sanctuaries, Pakistan’s security forces would be able to dismantle TTP in a short span of time. With the mainstreaming of tribal districts in KP, reforms in the Madaris system, and Ulema’s consensus Fatwa against terrorism in the form of Paigham-e-Pakistan (PeP), Pakistan’s state and society are better prepared to defeat TTP and other militant outfits. Therefore, the current wave of terrorism would be curtailed by the sustained efforts of security forces in Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan is very strong and resilient, and terrorists do not pose a long-term threat to its national security.
A freelance contributor with a M.Phil in international relations from Quaid-e-Azam University. Follow on Twitter: @Radiant_j_007.