Pakistan Military Has 'Serious Concerns' With TTP Operating Freely In Afghanistan

Pakistan Military Has 'Serious Concerns' With TTP Operating Freely In Afghanistan
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir visited Quetta Garrison today (Friday) where he was briefed on recent terrorist attack at a military garrison in Zhob, Balochistan, where nine soldiers were martyred. Gen Asim Munir was received by Commander Southern Command, Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor, on his arrival.

A handout from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the army chief "paid rich tribute to the martyrs" after which visited soldiers wounded in the operation and convalescing at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Quetta, where he commended their services to the nation and expressed his heartfelt appreciation for the bravery and resolve shown by veterans.

'Serious concerns' with TTP 'liberty of action' in Afghanistan

The statement said that the "Armed Forces of Pakistan have serious concerns on the safe havens and liberty of action available to TTP in Afghanistan". It added that Pakistan "expected that interim Afghan Government would not allow the use of its soil to perpetrate terror against any country, in the real sense and in line with commitments made in Doha Agreement".

The statement from the Pakistan Army pointed to the "involvement of Afghan nationals in acts of terrorism in Pakistan" as another "important concern" that remains to be addressed.

"Such attacks are intolerable and would elicit effective response from the security forces of Pakistan," the ISPR statement proclaimed.

It added that kinetic operations against terrorists would continue without pause and that the armed forces "shall not rest till the menace of terrorism is rooted out from the country".

Pakistan's growing security problems

Pakistan has been suffering a relentless campaign of terror attacks perpetrated by the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as well as separatists groups like the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), for months in a trend that is traced back to the Fall of Kabul in August 2021. In late November 2022, the TTP announced that it would be conducting attacks against Pakistani security forces, and since then the group has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks on a daily basis.

Massive terror attacks in Peshawar and Karachi earlier this year brought condemnations and official declarations of 'zero tolerance' for terrorism, but it has constantly appeared as if Pakistan's national leadership and security establishment are seized with other affairs of state.

This statement is perhaps the strongest message Pakistan's powerful army has publicly sent to the Afghan Taliban, who call themselves the interim government of Afghanistan. The army has also demanded that the Taliban remain true to their commitments as per the Doha Deal.

Security specialists familiar with the region consider it ironic how the Pakistan Army, once considered the most significant covert backer of the Taliban insurgency, is now forced to issue diplomatic messages to convey the consternation over Pakistan's rapidly deteriorating security conditions.

Apart from terror attacks, such as the one in Zhob, Pakistan's border with Afghanistan has also witnessed conflict in the Kurram region, where a land dispute is threatening to escalate into a sectarian conflict with the involvement of Taliban and other extremist militants. Parachinar, the centre of this conflict, is home to a sizable Shi'ite community which has been attacked by Taliban militants for years.

It has been reported that after weeks of fighting, tribal elders and clerics have managed to bring the warring sides to an agreement, and a tenuous peace has been restored in Parachinar and adjoining areas.

Sources on the ground in Parachinar confirmed that heavy weapons, including mortars and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), were being used in the conflict that had erupted. Reports that the Pakistan Army troops deployed in the area had abandoned their posts turned out to be false.

Pakistan's Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, both adjoining Afghanistan to the west, have come under relentless asymmetric pressure due to the security vacuum in Afghanistan, where the militant ecosystem has metastasised. According to Pakistani security experts, anti-Pakistan militant groups have attained greater operational strength thanks to caches of US and NATO weapon stocks that were left in Afghanistan.


TTP under stress

It has also been reported that the TTP is coming under stress from internal strife and infighting, as a senior commander hailing from the Mehsud tribe - the founders of the militant organisation - defected to another terror group.

Moreover, the attack in Zhob also led a commander of the TTP, Asad Afridi, to call out his leadership. Afridi issued a message saying that his fighters, and not the Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), were responsible for the Zhob attack.

The TTP is also being nudged, according to agreements between Islamabad and Kabul, to relocate its families and fighters away from the border with Pakistan. It must be noted that many tribes from both Waziristans were displaced into Afghanistan due to military operations, and these refugees still reside there. While families and other refugees may contemplate shifting, TTP cadres have been ordered to not relocate without orders from their top leadership.

TTP has been expected to resist forced attempts by the Afghan Taliban to relocate them to other areas in Afghanistan. It had also been reported that citizens in Afghanistan's northern provinces had protested against the proposal to resettle Pakistanis in their cities.