Rise in terror attacks from Afghanistan
MY last article dealt with the higher influx of terrorist activities from across the border in Balochistan.
Today I propose to examine the considerable increase in militant activity from across the border in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
It was widely believed that after the takeover of Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, these cross-border incursions from Afghanistan would decrease substantially.
But as a matter of fact, the opposite has happened. Last Sunday Pakistan forcefully condemned: “terrorists operating with impunity from Afghan soil to carry out activities in Pakistan” This was the strongest language in which Pakistan has ever condemned Afghanistan.
The Afghan government has conveniently looked the other way, whenever the TTP has indulged in such attacks against Pakistan.
Pakistan’s request for stern action against TTP, came amid reports of marked increase of such attacks in the last week alone.
The TTP carried out multiple attacks in the last week in North and South Waziristan districts as well as the Dera Ismail Khan district.
These attacks allegedly resulted in the death of several soldiers and policemen.
There were unconfirmed reports from Kabul that Pakistan carried out retaliatory air strikes against TTP bases in Khost and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan.
One report from Kabul did, however, speak about our Ambassador to Kabul being called, and given a demarche.
These events must have considerably increased the friction between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Contrary to Afghan claims, that they would not allow Afghan soil to be used against any country, there has been a sharp uptick in attacks originating from Afghanistan.
According to official figures 119 Pakistani officers and soldiers have laid down their life as a result of these attacks from Afghanistan, since last August.
All this should come as a rude surprise to all those, who thought that the war on terror was not Pakistan’s war.
These strikes have in fact, proved that the Afghan Taliban and the TTP were the two sides of the same coin.
The two thus contained the same DNA, and it was terribly naïve of us to think that the Afghan Taliban would protect us from the TTP.
The symbiotic relationship of the two, and the fact that the TTP has hosted Afghan Taliban for such a long time in the Pakistani tribal territories, makes it practically impossible for the Afghan Taliban to act against the TTP.
It could be instructive to briefly analyze some of the terror attacks by the militant outfits from across the border.
Some of the deadliest attacks that took place this year, include the following: Suicide bombing took place in March in a Shia Mosque in Peshawar.
The attack was so ferocious, that about 70 people lost their lives and more than 190 people got injured.
Islamic State, Khorasan Chapter, popularly known as IS-K took responsibility for the killing.
It is generally reported that amongst the terrorist out-fits in Afghanistan, IS-K is the only one which believes in killing civilians.
Various groups of TTP on the other hand believe in attacking only security forces.
On 22 March, these armed attackers infiltrated the Frontier Corp, Southern Base in Tank District of KP.
A seven-hour gun battle followed between the infiltrators and the troops. The attackers were later identified as affiliates of TTP.
The attacks were one of the most audacious, by the militant group in recent months. Seven soldiers, including one from the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary embraced martyrdom.
That these attackers were intercepted before they entered the main residential block, must have saved many precious lives.
According to some recent reports, the TTP in Afghanistan has increased its attacks against Pakistan’s security forces under its so-called operation Al-Badr.
As per intelligence reports TTP militants held a meeting in Chagharsan in Assad-Abad area of Kunar province of Afghanistan near Bajore district.
After the meeting the TTP told the media that it was decided that law enforcement personnel would be their prime targets.
The group also threatened to attack civilian officials and places of worship, especially on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitar.
TTP officials also claimed that many of their fighters had reached Peshawar; Bannu; Islamabad; Quetta and Karachi for attacks, which were a part of their strategy, according to operation Al-Badar.
According to a security analyst and senior police officer Mohammad Ali Babakhel, “The transition of TTP command from Mullah Fazalullah to Noor Wali Mehsud and the changed situation in Afghanistan have enabled the TTP to reconsolidate itself.
It sees working in collaboration with other groups as an opportunity to learn new techniques’’.
According to some other analysts, there could even be some operational linkages between certain groups of TTP and IS-K.
In the ongoing operation Al-Badar, most of TTP attacks have taken place in the southern districts of KP.
According to reports, in the town of Kulachi, where the TTP has established deep roots and organizational structure, five policemen were killed and three injured in a rocket attack on a police van.
In a related incident, a border post was attacked in South Waziristan killing an officer and injuring several others.
According to local officials, the TTP fighters being local tribesmen know the terrain very well, and thus can be an asset for external enemies.
These TTP fighters also have pockets of sympathizers and are in touch with financers from the under-world.
These militant operations are planned and controlled mostly from three Afghan provinces: Kunar; Nangarhar and Khost.
Along with Al-Badar operation of TTP the IS-K is also continuing its attacks. Recently IS-K claimed the killing of a security official in Bajore district.
Now coming to the most important question: why has in spite of their commitments the TTA failed to prevent TTP from carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistan?
There are a few reasons according to experts, some of the most important of which are that both TTA and TTP have the same ideology and DNA.
Since both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban literally grew up together. The TTA wants the TTP to either live peacefully in Pakistan, or remain in Afghanistan.
The Afghan Taliban feel that if force is used against TTP, they may join hands with IS-K, thus causing greater risk to both Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region.
The terrorism situation across the border is quite complex. Pakistan must, however, put maximum diplomatic and preemptive military pressure on Afghanistan to keep militant outfits like TTP and IS-K in check.
—The writer, based in Islamabad, is a former Health Minister of KP.