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 opportunities 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 havens to the TTP leadership and foot soldiers would certainly further shrink space for terrorists. As indicated by the TTP’s primary demand to restore former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Pakistan has denied its support based on its land by bringing these districts into the national mainstream.
There are several 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 UN report also sheds light on the thriving presence of Al-Qaeda, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), and TTP in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The governance challenges faced by the Taliban government and its apparent reluctance to rein in militant outfits contribute to the regional security dilemma.
The success of the Afghan Taliban in forming a government has reinvigorated militant groups, with TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud leveraging this momentum to inspire a renewed surge in violence in Pakistan.
Mehsud’s leadership style, rooted in his experience as a veteran Afghan Jihadi and an expert in urban terrorism, has revitalized the TTP. His adept command of theology is a decisive leverage point, allowing him to unite disparate elements within the TTP and quell internal conflicts. The emulation of the Afghan Taliban’s playbook, including the appointment of shadow governors, indicates a strategic convergence between TTP and its Afghan counterparts.
Collaboration between Noor Wali Mehsud and ISKP in Afghanistan further complicates the security landscape. Since the Afghan Taliban assumed power in Kabul in August 2021, there has been a staggering 60% increase in terrorist attacks and a 500% surge in suicide bombings in Pakistan. The toll on Pakistani lives, with approximately 2200 casualties resulting from these violent incidents, underscores the urgent need for a robust response to mitigate the threat posed by Mehsud and his cohorts. According to Pakistan’s Special Envoy to Kabul, Amb. Asif Durrani, TTP commands around 6,000 militants in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban’s reluctance to curb TTP activities, possibly rooted in historical jihadi bonds and tribal affiliations, poses a significant challenge.
The attacks on border posts by TTP, aimed at achieving free movement across the border, align with the Afghan Taliban’s vision of unrestricted movement and further complicate efforts to secure the region.
In response to these challenges, Pakistan has initiated the repatriation of illegal Afghan immigrants, a measure aimed at enhancing security. Reports of religious decrees by the Taliban leadership against terrorist attacks in Pakistan and their efforts to limit TTP activities are noteworthy. However, a cautious approach is warranted, necessitating close observation of the actual ground effects of these measures on the volatile border.
To counteract TTP’s activities effectively, a multifaceted strategy is imperative. Intelligence-based operations, targeted decapitation efforts, robust border defences, and imposing a heavy cost on the Afghan Taliban for any lenient approach towards the TTP are crucial components of this strategy.
The recent repatriation of Afghan immigrants underscores the importance of securing Pakistan’s borders and mitigating potential threats originating from across the border.
The mainstreaming of tribal districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), coupled with reforms in the Madaris system and Ulema’s consensus against terrorism through Paigham-e-Pakistan (PeP), reflects a comprehensive societal approach. These initiatives, alongside the security forces’ resilience, position Pakistan to defeat not only the TTP but also other militant outfits. The dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries by the Afghan Taliban would be a pivotal factor in expediting this process.
While the recent surge in terrorist attacks poses significant challenges for Pakistan, a multifaceted approach encompassing security measures, international collaboration, and societal reforms is crucial. The resilience of Pakistan’s security forces, coupled with strategic initiatives such as repatriation and mainstreaming, provides a foundation for countering the TTP and related extremist threats. As the Afghan Taliban grapples with governance issues, the potential elimination of terrorist sanctuaries offers hope for a more secure regional landscape.
A freelance contributor with a M.Phil in international relations from Quaid-e-Azam University. Follow on Twitter: @Radiant_j_007.