Taliban-TTP nexus

Published February 17, 2023

IF the analysis of an American government think tank stating that the Afghan Taliban are unwilling to end their support for the banned TTP is accurate, it would put to rest the illusion harboured by some in our security establishment that a Taliban government in Kabul is good for Pakistan. If anything, the US Institute of Peace report paints an unsettling picture, which shows that not only are the Afghan rulers allowing TTP fighters to freely operate on their soil, but that they believe that Pakistan will not launch a full-blown anti-TTP operation because of its financial woes. The report observes that TTP operatives move freely in Afghanistan, while adding that “the Afghan Taliban remain very supportive of the TTP and are providing the group with a permissive safe haven”. Moreover, there appears to be support for the TTP within Afghan society beyond the Taliban due to deeply entrenched anti-Pakistan views. In fact, some of the bombers who carried out attacks inside Pakistan have been identified as Afghans. And while some within the Taliban ruling elite, such as the Haqqani faction, favour a softer line towards Pakistan, and have tried to stop the TTP from launching attacks against this country, Taliban supremo Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada remains convinced Pakistan’s system is “un-Islamic”, much as his ideological comrades in the TTP do.

Where Pakistan’s security is concerned, there were warnings all along that the Afghan Taliban would do little to rein in the TTP, and these findings only confirm those fears. While Pakistan’s options may be limited, it needs to firmly let the Taliban rulers know that hosting and supporting a group visibly hostile to this country will have far-reaching implications. For one, Pakistan should stop defending Kabul’s rulers at international fora unless they clean up their act. Moreover, while times may indeed be tough, the state needs to make it clear that the TTP and other terrorists trying to harm Pakistan will be dealt with severely on the battlefield. Also, Pakistan should coordinate with regional states to communicate to Kabul that terrorists cannot find a safe haven on Afghan soil. Russia, China, Iran and the Central Asian states are all wary of terrorist groups finding refuge in Afghanistan, and Pakistan needs to use regional platforms to let the Taliban know that either they can neutralise the terrorists, or face further isolation.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2023

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