Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 34 Issue 7
Author: Ahsan Ali
Since the Taliban’s ascension to power in Afghanistan and considering recent developments within Pakistan, the regional security landscape has witnessed a discernible deterioration, primarily because of the escalating terrorist menace emanating from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The resurgence of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has significantly altered the dynamics of regional stability, accentuating concerns about the potential spillover effects of extremism and violence in neighbouring countries.
Pakistan, in particular, finds itself at a critical juncture, contending with an upsurge in TTP activities along its western borders. This resurgence has not only complicated Islamabad’s internal security apparatus, but has also strained diplomatic relations with its international counterparts.
Pakistan’s Confrontation with TTP in Relation to Afghanistan:
In August 2021, the United States and its allies chaotically withdrawn from Afghanistan, affecting the Ghani administration and its institutional apparatus. Afghan Taliban put their flag in Kabul and consolidated their control over large swathes of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with the call to amnesty for all parties.
By the time, Pakistan felt that their ‘strategic depth’ policy has succeeded and long adversaries, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the pockets of Afghanistan would dismantle by the new ‘administration’ of Taliban, as they proclaimed they won’t allow any terrorist entity to operate on Afghan soil.
However, the Pakistan Taliban allegedly continued operating from Afghan soil against Pakistan with attacks on Pakistani law enforcement, civilian infrastructure, and ideological war. Rather than persuading TTP with military tactics, Afghan Taliban encouraged dialogue and diplomacy with reaching in June 2022.
The ceasefire was a breakthrough, but it legitimised TTP’s cause as an entity to conduct negotiations and lay down its interest. There were reports of TTP prisoners’ release, but the real demand of TTP was the annulment of the Pakistan Constitution, withdrawal of troops, and impose shari’a law within Pakistan.
Accusations have been made that the Afghan Taliban have provided TTP with safe havens and sanctuaries in Afghanistan, acting as their ideological and organisational allies and contributing to their expansion in remote areas.
With a fight-and-talk strategy during the truce, it was a fragile peace itself as TTP conducted attacks in Pakistan and four TTP commanders, including the founding member Omar Khalid Khorasani, died in Afghanistan in August 2022. TTP attacks increased per month, mounting from 14.5 in 2020 to 45.8 in 2022, with more operational command and grounds for the militant group.
Pakistan acted in its own interest during the US presence in Kabul, stay in Afghanistan with its own covert diplomatic approach rather than a confrontational approach to the Afghan Taliban and Kabul government having hawkish stance on Pakistan. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Pakistan reached their lowest point after the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2011, leading to persistent US mistrust of Islamabad.
In 2018, when Imran Khan became the Pakistani Prime Minister, Islamabad’s strategy aimed at negotiating with the TTP. With the acceptance of controversial blasphemy laws, Islamabad registered weaker diplomatic and security relations with Washington since US President Donald Trump suspended security aid to Pakistan, with ending access of Pakistani security officers to US education and training camps.
Security in Pakistan and TTP Activities:
A Geopolitical Scenario
According to the United Nations, 6,000 TTP militants are operating from Afghan soil. With the predicting breakdown of peace talk, Pakistan started experiencing terrorist attacks with more thresholds, especially on Pakistan’s security apparatus, being more frequently targeted.
The Peshawar Mosque suffered a suicide bombing attack in January 2023, leading to the deaths of almost 100 people and the injury of over 200. Most of the individuals present were police officials, and TTP claimed responsibility for this attack.
Later, in February 2023, TTP targeted police headquarters, killing four police and underlying security flaws. With Pakistan being targeted from all fronts, as in the starting three months of 2023, 11 attacks were conducted in Balochistan. The exchange of fire on the border with Afghanistan has mounted casualties on Pakistan troops, with a total of 130 deaths.
As political instability, which directly affected the economy since the removal of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, dealing with militants has become a severe problem for Pakistan considering also that law enforcement main body police is under-funded, outgunned and lacking modern technology to deal with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The bordering porous tribal areas of Pakistan with Afghanistan have been the recruitment point in the past and, currently, TTP is driving the same recruitment in the bordering regions. The fencing of 2,600 kilometres border between Pakistan and Afghanistan had been unsuccessful as TTP had infiltrated in Pakistan and conduct its operations within Pakistani territories.
To loot the exploits of security lapses, other groups are also taking advantage. As in late July 2023, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) organised a suicide bombing against a political rally of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) of hard-line Maulana Fazlur Rehman at Bajaur District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, causing the death of 54 people.
The crisis in dealing with the threat is becoming dire day by day, and the TTP is posing a challenge for Pakistan, with the lack of action from the Kabul-based Taliban. With TTP becoming an ire for Pakistan and a basis of shaky relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan as in early September, the border was closed because of the exchange of fire with the checkpoint construction but frustrations of TTP hideout in Afghan soil are openly under the rug.
As with the return of the Afghan Taliban and TTP determined to attack more on the security of Pakistan, the further navigation is perplexing. TTP may continue to poise national security threat to Pakistan, especially with a ‘safe haven’ in Afghanistan, which gives to the group now ground to mobilise from different places.
Not only TTP but also ISKP also will make its own fortunes by striking the civilian and military infrastructure. Pakistani establishment, politicians, and population must understand that Afghan Taliban and TTP might be ideologically aligned and an ally of one another.
In order to ensure their safety, the Afghan Taliban may seek allies or propagate their beliefs wherever possible. Consequently, the TTP serves as a tool for the Afghan Taliban, allowing them to gain an advantage in Islamabad.
In Pakistan itself, many religious politicians had an affinity with Afghan Taliban or TTP because of their familiar religious ideology. It must be known that some TTP fighters were once members of Pakistan Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whom they don’t think to be a ‘real hardliner’ as he claims.
As with the withdrawal of US troops and the return of the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan lost the leverage of conducting intelligence sharing military airstrikes in the bordering region, which allowed TTP to substantially regain their strength.
In conclusion, it is possible to highlight Pakistan, which is already reeling from economic insecurity and political instability, needs to address security even though it involves billions of dollars to improve it.
Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpecialEurasia.
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