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Pakistani Think Tank Research Exposes Persistent TTP Presence in Afghan Safe Havens

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Pakistan has long faced a persistent security dilemma regarding the presence of cross-border havens in Afghanistan, especially for militant groups like the banned TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan). This issue has remained a concern even during the period since the Afghan Taliban assumed power. Unfortunately, the statistics paint a disconcerting picture.

According to a report from the Pak Institute for Peace Studies think tank, Pakistan witnessed a significant 73% increase in terrorist attacks between August 2021 and April 2023, following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. The number of casualties in these attacks rose phenomenally by 138%, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan bearing the brunt of the violence.

In the midst of the Taliban’s control, Pakistan attempted to negotiate peace with the TTP but met with limited success. It is widely believed that the TTP is responsible for a majority of the attacks. While the Afghan Taliban publicly supported peace talks, evidence strongly suggests that the TTP has sought refuge in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

According to a report from the Pak Institute for Peace Studies think tank, Pakistan witnessed a significant 73% increase in terrorist attacks between August 2021 and April 2023, following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul.

One complicating factor is the ideological similarity between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. Additionally, it is believed that the groups that eventually formed the TTP provided shelter to the Afghan Taliban in their Pakistani strongholds following the US invasion of Afghanistan.

However, it is imperative to find a permanent solution to the problem of militants finding safe havens in Afghanistan, including the TTP and other extremist groups. This issue extends beyond Pakistan and has raised concerns among regional states like China and Russia, who also share apprehensions about the present government in Kabul.

Although there have been no large-scale terrorist attacks in recent months, the constant occurrence of smaller-scale incidents underscores the ongoing threat posed by militants. For instance, just last week, a soldier protecting polio workers in North Waziristan lost his life, and a TTP commander was gunned down in D.I. Khan by law enforcement.

In addition to military operations, Pakistan must maintain pressure on the Afghan Taliban through bilateral and regional cooperation, continually reminding them that providing sanctuary for militants to attack Pakistan is entirely unacceptable.

Background:

The issue of cross-border havens in Afghanistan and the presence of militant groups like the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) has been a longstanding concern for Pakistan. The porous border between the two countries has allowed militants to find safe havens in Afghanistan and launch attacks on Pakistani soil, destabilizing the region and posing a significant security threat.

 

The TTP, a banned extremist organization, has been a major source of worry for Pakistan’s security apparatus. Formed in 2007, the TTP aims to overthrow the Pakistani government and establish its own brand of Islamist rule. Over the years, the TTP has carried out numerous deadly attacks in Pakistan, targeting security forces, civilians, and important installations.

 

One crucial aspect that exacerbates the issue is the ideological alignment and historical ties between the Afghan Taliban and the TTP. Both groups share a similar extremist ideology and have collaborated in the past. Following the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Afghan Taliban sought refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where the TTP later emerged as an umbrella organization for various militant factions. This close association allowed the TTP to establish strongholds and receive support from the Afghan Taliban.

 

Despite efforts by the Pakistani government to combat the TTP, the group has managed to survive and launch attacks from its sanctuaries in Afghanistan. The situation became more complex when the Afghan Taliban regained control of Kabul in 2021. While the Afghan Taliban publicly expressed support for peace talks and denied using Afghan soil for terrorism, evidence suggests that the TTP continues to find shelter in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

 

The presence of cross-border havens and the TTP’s activities have resulted in a significant rise in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The country has witnessed an alarming increase in both the number of attacks and casualties, with provinces like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan being particularly affected.

 

Addressing the issue of cross-border havens and the TTP requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach. Pakistan has called for international cooperation and highlighted the concerns of regional states like China and Russia, who share similar worries about the security situation in Afghanistan. It is crucial to find a permanent solution to prevent militants from using Afghan soil as a base to launch attacks, ensuring peace and stability in the region.

 

M Moiz
M Moiz
M Moiz, is Research Student at Islamabad research Institute and work with THE THINK TANK JOURNAL

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