May 3, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9942

Pakistani Columnist Akbar Jan Marwat Examines Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) Cross-Border War Against Pakistani Army In Waziristan Region, Says: 'Afghan Taliban Feel That If Force Is Used Against TTP, They May Join Hands With ISIS-K'

May 3, 2022
Special Dispatch No. 9942

In a recent article, noted Pakistani columnist Akbar Jan Marwat examined the rising terror attacks in North and South Waziristan and other tribal districts of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The terror attacks are carried out by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (the Movement of the Pakistani Taliban, TTP), which has formally declared itself to be a branch of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA, the Afghan Taliban organization which seized power in Kabul on August 15, 2021).

In the article, titled "Rise In Terror Attacks From Afghanistan," Akbar Jan Marwat – an Islamabad-based writer who has served as minister of health in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – goes on to argue that both IEA and TTP have "the same DNA," meaning they share the same jihadi ideology, which seeks to establish a shari'a government. His article comes at a time when scores of Pakistani soldiers have been killed in recent months in the border region, especially in the North and South Waziristan tribal districts.

It was expected that after the IEA seized power in August 2021, the attacks should have decreased in Pakistan, which has supported the IEA for the past decades as it fought against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. However, as Marwat notes, it is being realized in Pakistan that the IAE is unable to control TTP, the Pakistani Taliban, who have taken shelter in Afghanistan and cross into Pakistan's border region to carry out attacks.

Following are excerpts from Marwat's article:

"Contrary To The Afghan [Taliban Rulers'] Claims That They Would Not Allow Afghan Soil To Be Used Against Any Country, There Has Been A Sharp Uptick In Attacks [In Pakistan] Originating From Afghanistan"

"It was widely believed that after the takeover of Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, these cross-border incursions from Afghanistan would decrease substantially. But as a matter of fact, the opposite has happened. Last Sunday [April 24] Pakistan forcefully condemned: 'terrorists operating with impunity from Afghan soil to carry out activities in Pakistan.' This was the strongest language in which Pakistan has ever condemned Afghanistan.

"The Afghan [Taliban] government has conveniently looked the other way whenever the TTP has indulged in such attacks against Pakistan. Pakistan's request for stern action against TTP came amid reports of marked increase of such attacks in the last week alone. The TTP carried out multiple attacks in the last week [ending April 24, 2022] in North and South Waziristan districts as well as the Dera Ismail Khan district.

"These attacks allegedly resulted in the deaths of several soldiers and policemen. There were unconfirmed reports from Kabul that Pakistan carried out retaliatory air strikes against TTP bases in the Khost and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. One report from Kabul did, however, speak about our Ambassador to Kabul being called, and given a demarche. These events must have considerably increased the friction between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Contrary to Afghan [Taliban rulers'] claims that they would not allow Afghan soil to be used against any country, there has been a sharp uptick in attacks originating from Afghanistan. According to official figures, 119 Pakistani officers and soldiers have laid down their life as a result of these attacks from Afghanistan since last August [2021 when the Afghan Taliban seized power in Kabul]."

"It Was Terribly Naïve Of Us [Pakistani Rulers] To Think That The Afghan Taliban Would Protect Us From The TTP"

"All this should come as a rude surprise to all those who thought that the war on terror was not Pakistan's war. These strikes have, in fact, proved that the Afghan Taliban and the TTP were the two sides of the same coin. The two thus contain the same DNA, and it was terribly naïve of us [Pakistani rulers] to think that the Afghan Taliban would protect us from the TTP.

"The symbiotic relationship of the two, and the fact that the TTP has hosted Afghan Taliban for such a long time in the Pakistani tribal territories, makes it practically impossible for the Afghan Taliban to act against the TTP.

"It could be instructive to briefly analyze some of the terror attacks by the militant outfits from across the border. Some of the deadliest attacks that took place this year [in 2022], include the following: a suicide bombing took place in March in a Shia Mosque in Peshawar. The attack was so ferocious that about 70 people lost their lives and more than 190 people got injured.

"Islamic State's Khurasan Chapter, popularly known as ISIS-K, took responsibility for the killing. It is generally reported that amongst the terrorist outfits in Afghanistan, ISIS-K is the only one that believes in killing civilians.

"Various groups of TTP, on the other hand, believe in attacking only security forces [of Pakistan inside Pakistan tribal region]. On March 22, these armed attackers infiltrated the [paramilitary] Frontier Corps, the Southern Base in Tank District of KP. A seven-hour gun battle followed between the infiltrators and the troops. The attackers were later identified as affiliates of TTP.

"The attacks were among the most audacious by the militant group in recent months. Seven soldiers, including one from the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary [FC] embraced martyrdom. That these attackers were intercepted before they entered the main residential block must have saved many precious lives."

"There Could Even Be Some Operational Linkages Between Certain Groups Of TTP And ISIS-K"

"According to some recent reports, the TTP in Afghanistan has increased its attacks against Pakistan's security forces under its so-called operation Al-Badr [the Ramadan offensive launched since April 2]. As per intelligence reports TTP militants held a meeting in Chagharsan in Assad-Abad area of Kunar province of Afghanistan near [Pakistan's] Bajaur district.

"After the meeting the TTP told the media that it was decided that law enforcement personnel would be their prime targets. The group also threatened to attack civilian officials and places of worship, especially on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr [likely to be celebrated on May 2 or 3, 2022]. TTP officials also claimed that many of their fighters had reached Peshawar, Bannu, Islamabad, Quetta, and Karachi for attacks, which were a part of their strategy... [of] operation Al-Badr.

"According to a security analyst and senior police officer Mohammad Ali Babakhel, 'The transition of TTP command from [slain TTP emir] Mullah Fazlullah to [current TTP emir] Noor Wali Mehsud and the changed situation in Afghanistan have enabled the TTP to reconsolidate itself. It sees working in collaboration with other groups [which have joined the TTP now] as an opportunity to learn new techniques.'

"According to some other analysts, there could even be some operational linkages between certain groups of TTP and ISIS-K. In the ongoing operation Al-Badr, most of TTP attacks have taken place in the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to reports, in the town of Kulachi [in Dera Ismail Khan district], where the TTP has established deep roots and organizational structure, five policemen were killed and three injured in a rocket attack on a police van. In a related incident, a border post was attacked in South Waziristan killing an officer and injuring several others."

"The TTP Fighters, Being Local Tribesmen, Know The Terrain Very Well, And Thus Can Be An Asset For External Enemies"

"According to local officials, the TTP fighters, being local tribesmen, know the terrain very well, and thus can be an asset for external enemies. These TTP fighters also have pockets of sympathizers and are in touch with financers from the under-world.

"These militant operations are planned and controlled mostly from three Afghan provinces: Kunar; Nangarhar, and Khost. Along with Al-Badr operation of TTP, the ISIS-K is also continuing its attacks. Recently ISIS-K claimed the killing of a security official in Bajaur district [which borders Afghanistan].

"Now coming to the most important question: Why has the TTA [IEA], in spite of their commitments, failed to prevent TTP from carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistan? There are a few reasons according to experts, some of the most important of which are that both TTA and TTP have the same ideology and DNA.

"Since both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban literally grew up together. The TTA wants the TTP to either live peacefully in Pakistan, or remain in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban feel that if force is used against TTP, they may join hands with ISIS-K, thus causing greater risk to both Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region.

"The terrorism situation across the border is quite complex. Pakistan must, however, put maximum diplomatic and pre-emptive military pressure on Afghanistan to keep militant outfits like TTP and ISIS-K in check."

Source: Pakistan Observer (Pakistan), April 24, 2022. The original English of the article has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

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