An announcement that three Taliban factions — the Jamaatul Ahrar, the Tehreek-i-Taliban and Tehreek-i-Lashkar-i-Islam — are once again joining forces under the umbrella of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has raised many eyebrows among security circles.

Dawn spoke to retired Brigadier Asad Munir, a former intelligence operative with extensive experience of working in KP and the tribal areas, about the significance of this move.


What is the significance of the timing of this reunification?

The timing of this and so-called merger is not really significant. All three were already on the same page in terms of tactics and objectives and already had close links with each other.

The ongoing military operations have forced them to adopt such tactics just to show their power. In fact, these groups have broadly lost their ability to conduct major terrorist activities and are on the run.

Before the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, these groups deliberately ran a message on wireless sets, inviting the army to intercept their communications. They claimed that if the army launched an operation, they would conduct series of attacks and there would be a serious backlash.

They were, in fact, trying to create a facade to convince people they were capable of carrying out terror attacks in the hope that following their threats, the army will reconsider launching an operation.

To some extent, the Omar Khalid Khorasani group has the potential to carry out limited terrorist attacks, but I don’t think Fazlullah or Mangal Bagh’s people are in any position to launch serious attacks.

Will this allow the three groups more operational flexibility in terms of operating in urban areas?

There will be no new threat. Khorasani wants dominance in the Mohmand Agency, while Fazlullah wishes to control Swat. Currently, there is heavy snow in some parts of North Waziristan, where the army is having difficulties launching ground offensives. But, next month, the situation change will drastically.

What steps, if any, is the govt or the army taking to fight the information war which the TTP is waging through its spokespersons who are visible on almost every channel and newspaper?

The media coverage of these groups does not have any serious impact. But times have changed now, definitely. I still remember in 2004, Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz issued an edict saying that all the soldiers, who laid down their lives fighting the Taliban were not martyrs, but the same cleric is now forced to condemning terrorist activities. This is a big change.

What message will this reunification send to other splinter groups and are more groups expected to join this bloc?

I don’t think any new group will join them. At the moment, all extremists are on the run and their ability to carry out attacks has been diluted. At the moment, there is no serious threat of a backlash from the military operation.

Another important thing to remember is that after Daesh is beaten in Iraq, these groups will receive yet another setback.

Published in Dawn March 13th, 2015

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