Peshawar attack: Afghanistan, Isaf promise action against Taliban group

Updated December 18, 2014

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This handout picture released by Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR) on December 17, 2014 shows Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (C) chatting with an injured student from the Army Public School a day after militants attacked the school, at the military hospital in Peshawar, as army chief General Raheel Sharif (L) looks on. — AFP
This handout picture released by Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR) on December 17, 2014 shows Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (C) chatting with an injured student from the Army Public School a day after militants attacked the school, at the military hospital in Peshawar, as army chief General Raheel Sharif (L) looks on. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif got assurances on Wednesday from the Afghan government and International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (Isaf) for action against a Kunar-based Taliban splinter group which is believed to be behind the Peshawar army school massacre which left more than 130 schoolchildren dead.

Gen Sharif, accompanied by ISI Chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, made an unscheduled visit to Afghanistan for sharing vital elements of intelligence with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Commander of Coalition Forces in Afghanistan General John Campbell.

Military’s public affairs wing ISPR said in a statement on Gen Sharif’s meetings in Afghanistan: “Afghan president assured Gen Raheel Sharif that Afghan soil will not be allowed for terrorists’ activities against Pakistan and any signature found in this regard will be immediately eliminated.”

The Isaf [International Security Assistance Force] commander also assured the COAS of Isaf’s complete support in “eliminating terrorist” in his area of responsibility, the statement added.

There was, however, no word from the Afghan government or Isaf on Gen Sharif’s meetings.

“Both President Ghani and Gen Campbell assured Gen Sharif that they’ll take action against the group involved in the Peshawar attack,” a source who had been briefed on the Kabul visit, told Dawn, adding that the intelligence shared with Afghan president and Isaf was “very specific” and pointed towards involvement of a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s splinter group.

The attack has been claimed by Jamaatul Ahrar which was formed in August this year after eight TTP commanders defected and joined its ranks. Omar Khorasani, who previously commanded the Mohmand chapter of the TTP, was among the eight defecting commanders. Khorasani, currently based in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, is suspected to have masterminded the Peshawar attack.

Pakistan has long protested against presence of sanctuaries of Taliban militants in Kunar province, but failed to get Afghan forces or Isaf to act against them. Things, however, began to change during Gen Sharif’s extended visit to Washington last month when US drones started targeting Taliban targets in Afghanistan.

Gen Sharif reciprocated the “positive response” of the Afghan president and Isaf commander by pledging continued support to “the unity government in all spheres including joint efforts against terrorists”.

Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar had on Tuesday telephoned Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to condemn the school attack. He had said: “Terrorism is a menace for the entire region and has to be addressed through common endeavours.”

In a statement on the Peshawar attack, Isaf had, meanwhile, said that it was confident that “the Pakistani authorities will work tirelessly to seek justice for the families and hold those behind the attack accountable for their atrocities”.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2014