Pakistan faces a resurgent TTP threat emanating from Afghanistan, jeopardizing regional stability [Pir Zubair Shah/The New York Times]

TTP Threat: A Stalemate for Pakistan and Afghanistan Ties?

Pakistan finds itself coiled around a venomous threat – the resurgence of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) since the ascension of the Afghan Interim Government in Afghanistan. This TTP threat isn’t a hypothetical danger; it’s a full-blown nightmare unfolding in real-time. The recent attacks in general and a suicide bombing that claimed the lives of five Chinese engineers working on a vital dam project in Pakistan weren’t isolated incidents. This was a brutal reminder that Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban Government, has become a breeding ground for terror once again.

Major-General Ahmed Sharif, Pakistan’s military spokesperson, minced no words. He laid bare the undeniable truth: the attack was orchestrated from ‘terrorist sanctuaries‘ within Afghanistan.

“This attack was planned in Afghanistan, and terrorists and their facilitators were also being controlled from there,” said General Ahmed Sharif in the press conference. “The car used in it was readied in Afghanistan, and the suicide bomber was also an Afghan national.”

This blatant violation of the Doha Agreement exposes the duplicity of the current Afghan Interim Government. They posture as a peace-seeking government, yet they cultivate a viper’s nest within their borders, a nest that spews forth violence to destabilize their neighbor with whom they share the longest border and cripple the region’s economic potential – the very potential that ultimately will also benefit them.

Pakistan has borne the brunt of the violence by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for years. Over 120 attacks by the group and its affiliates against Pakistani security forces in the first quarter of 2024 alone paint a grim picture. As per the reports of international experts, media houses, and even the United States government, thousands of TTP fighters operate freely on Afghan soil, allegedly bolstered by “modern weapons” supplied by elements within the Interim Government itself.

The Afghan Defense Ministry’s dismissal of these accusations as “irresponsible”, in response to Pakistan’s concerns, is a slap in the face to the countless Pakistani lives lost to TTP barbarity.

Their claims of Pakistani weakness ring hollow when juxtaposed with the hundreds of apprehended Afghan nationals linked to recent TTP attacks. Pakistan has provided concrete evidence, yet receives only baseless denials in return.

For decades, Pakistan has desperately craved a stable Afghanistan, viewing it as a cornerstone of their own security. Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, Pakistan has viewed India’s “double encirclement” strategy – using a friendly Afghan government to squeeze Pakistan from both the north and east – as a serious threat to its strategic interests. This strategy, a constant irritant for Pakistani leadership, has fueled their desire for a regime in Kabul that aligns with Pakistan’s regional security and regional economic connectivity goals and denies India’s undue influence in Afghanistan.

The Taliban takeover in August 2021 initially sparked hope for a decline in violence, particularly from the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). But that dream quickly dissolved as TTP attacks skyrocketed in late 2022 and early 2023.

Taliban took control of the Afghan presidential palace after Ghani fled Afghanistan [AP/Zabi Karimi]
Taliban took control of the Afghan presidential palace after Ghani fled Afghanistan [AP/Zabi Karimi]

Pakistan is livid that the TTP continues to use Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks on Pakistani soil. This concern is further stoked by pronouncements from some Taliban leaders in late 2023, that directly contradict an official religious ruling issued by Afghanistan’s top religious scholar, Mufti of Dar ul Ifta Abdul Rauf.

The Fatwa issued by Mufti Rauf in late 2023, clearly stated that Afghans are forbidden from waging Jihad outside Afghanistan and that they must adhere to the Emir’s orders. This stark discrepancy between the fatwa, a formal religious decree, and the pronouncements of some Taliban leaders sows confusion and distrust in Pakistan.

Also Read: TTP-TTA Nexus: A Global Security Threat

Pakistan interprets this as a blatant disrespect for the fatwa’s authority and a sign that the Afghan Interim Government may be either unwilling or incapable of controlling extremist groups operating within their borders, particularly the TTP with its long and bloody history of violence against Pakistan.

This lack of control is further exacerbated by the dangerous ideological overlap between TTP and the lower ranks of the Taliban (TTA). Historically, both groups view Pakistan’s alliance with the United States during the Afghan War as justification for their fight against the Pakistani state. This sentiment was evident even during the early days of the Taliban takeover, with some TTA fighters attempting to join forces with the TTP.

Furthermore, TTP has demonstrably provided support to the Taliban’s Afghan Jihad. This inherent tension between the Taliban’s official policy and the deeply held beliefs of some members creates a critical and potentially insurmountable obstacle for Pakistan in any attempt to normalize relations with the Taliban regime.

In this situation, the international community cannot afford to be bystanders. The resurgence of the TTP threat not only threatens Pakistan’s stability but also creates a fertile ground for extremism in Afghanistan. This, in turn, could attract other militant groups to the region, potentially engulfing the entire area in violence. The devastating attack on a Moscow Concert Hall by an Afghanistan-based affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) serves as a stark reminder of the global reach of these terrorist organizations.

The gunmen detonated explosives causing an enormous blaze [Sergei Vedyashkin/Moscow News Agency via AP Photo]
The gunmen detonated explosives causing an enormous blaze [Sergei Vedyashkin/Moscow News Agency via AP Photo]

Pakistan has shown remarkable restraint in the face of repeated provocations. However, its patience is wearing thin. Airstrikes, while a regrettable necessity, demonstrate the seriousness of the situation. The time for empty platitudes is over.

Also Read: Beyond Retaliation: Pakistan Airstrikes in Afghanistan

The path forward is clear: dismantle TTP safe havens from Afghanistan.

This requires immediate and demonstrable action from the Taliban. The Doha Agreement has not been a mere suggestion; it has been a binding commitment. Failure to comply will have consequences ultimately which will impact the region at large. Pakistan has been very clear recently that it will not tolerate its citizens being targeted with impunity.

Hence, the future of regional security hangs in the balance, but so too does the economic prosperity of both nations. A shroud of violence suffocates economic activity. With constant terror threats, businesses are hesitant to invest. Fear of kidnappings and bombings disrupts vital trade routes, the lifeblood of any regional economy. Large-scale infrastructure projects, like the dam targeted in the recent attack, are either indefinitely postponed or shelved altogether. This stifles growth and development in both countries.

Besides Afghanistan itself suffers under the weight of terrorism. The presence of TTP, ISKP and other militant groups discourages foreign investment, a crucial element for rebuilding the war-torn nation’s infrastructure and industries. Tourists, another significant source of revenue, avoid regions plagued by violence. This leaves Afghanistan in a perpetual state of economic stagnation, hindering any hope of long-term stability and prosperity.

Then, notably Pakistan’s decision to repatriate over 563,000 undocumented Afghans was a difficult but necessary step to protect its national security and economic well-being. The continued presence of a hostile militant group on its doorstep, actively supported by elements within the Afghan government, posed a clear and present danger. These undocumented immigrants, many of whom fled the war in Afghanistan years ago, strained Pakistan’s already stretched resources. With the war over, it is only reasonable to expect these individuals to return home and contribute to rebuilding their own country. The international community, which has pledged billions in aid to Afghanistan, must fulfill its promises to create a stable environment conducive to the return of refugees and economic development.

The future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region as a whole hinges on the Taliban’s choice. Will they be a partner in peace and economic cooperation, or will they continue to harbor vipers that strangle the prosperity of both nations? The world is watching, and the clock is ticking. Pakistan has a right to defend itself, and it will. But a sustainable solution requires a resolute commitment from both sides, backed by the international community, to dismantle the security threat originating from the presence of such groups in Afghanistan and pave the way for a more secure and prosperous future for all.


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