Combating terror

Pakistan expresses concern over terror threats emanating from Afghan soil

Combating terror


he Afghan Taliban had promised the world through the Doha Accord that their land would not be used for terrorist violence against any country. However, they have been unable to stop the threat of terrorism on both sides of their border with Pakistan.

The recent corps commanders’ conference reiterated that the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan as well as some other terrorist groups were a threat to national security.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, the 258th Corps Commanders’ Conference was held under the chairmanship of Gen Syed Asim Munir. “There was a detailed briefing on the internal security situation. Operational preparations and training aspects of the army were also discussed in the conference. The sanctuaries and liberty of action available to the terrorists of the proscribed TTP and other groups of that ilk in a neighbouring country and availability of the latest weapons to the terrorists were noted as major reasons impacting [the] security of Pakistan,” a statement issued by the ISPR said.

The statement came after several deadly attacks in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan. Gen Syed Asim Munir, on the occasion of his visit to Quetta, after the attacks, expressed serious concern about the TTP safe havens and terrorist activities in Afghanistan. He said that the involvement of Afghan citizens in terrorist activities in Pakistan was another major concern that needed to be addressed at the earliest. “Such terrorist attacks are intolerable. The security forces will effectively retaliate against such attacks.”

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had earlier said that Afghanistan was not fulfilling its obligations as a brotherly neighbor; nor was it abiding by the Doha Agreement. He also said that Afghan land was being used against Pakistan. He said the situation could not be tolerated any longer.

US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller, too, commented on the issue. Asked about it at a briefing, he said, “I don’t have any comment specifically on that, but I will say we have made very clear that we believe the Taliban have the responsibility to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a haven for launching terrorist attacks.“

Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabihaullah Mujahid referred to the Doha Agreement in an interview. He said, “We have signed the Doha Agreement with America, but Pakistan is our brother and a neighbouring country; and we do care about this aspect. The Afghan Taliban would never want Afghanistan’s soil to be used against a neighbouring brother country.”

At the same time, he also said that it was Pakistan’s job to stop terrorist activities in Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities have said they have a lot of evidence suggesting that Afghan soil as well as Afghan citizens are being used in attacks against Pakistan.

In a recent attack on Pakistani security installations in the Zhob district of Balochistan, three of the attackers came from the Afghan provinces of Paktia, Paktika and Maidan Wardak. According to sources, Hujjatullah Rehan alias Rehan Janan, one of the suicide attackers killed in Zhob was from Maidan Wardak. A public condolence gathering was held in his native area, for which invitation cards were printed and hundreds of Taliban participated in the event. This is one of many incidents where Afghan citizens were used in planning and carrying out attacks against Pakistan.

Combating terror

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that Afghanistan was not fulfilling its obligations as a brotherly neighbor. Nor, he said, was it abiding by the Doha agreement. He also said that the Afghan land was being used against Pakistan. 

After the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, there were concerns about the resurgence of the TTP. One of the biggest concerns was that some of their fighters would turn to Islamic State in the Khorasan Province (ISKP) if not engaged and disarmed. After the withdrawal of the US-led coalition forces, the main goal of such groups had been attained. However, a large IS platform still existed. The Afghan Taliban were aware of this threat and have tried to eliminate it. This has led to ISKP fighters taking refuge with regional organisations such as the TTP. This has been a matter of grave concern for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Gen Syed Asim Munir has also visited Iran. Security situation in the region was discussed during the visit. Like Pakistan, Iran also has some reservations about the Afghan Taliban. If the Afghan Taliban fail to remove the concerns of their neighbouring countries, they may face difficulties in use of land routes.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, the presence of Pakistani fighters in several Afghan provinces, especially Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Nangarhar, Kunar, Helmand and Kandahar has been reported.

Many Pakistani businessmen have received extortion calls from Afghan numbers. A founding leader of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid Khorasani, has been killed in Afghanistan. He was buried in Afghanistan. Under the supervision of the Afghan Taliban, negotiations were held between the TTP leadership and Pakistani authorities. The core leadership of TTP, including its chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, is based in Afghanistan. These people live in Afghanistan with their families.

Combating terror

So, why are the Afghan Taliban reluctant to take action against the TTP?

It seems difficult for the Afghan Taliban to pressure the Pakistani Taliban. TTP men used to shelter some of the Afghan Taliban commanders and fighters when they faced military operations and drone attacks. In protecting the Afghan Taliban and fighting alongside them against the US coalition forces and the Afghan government, they lost hundreds of their fighters during security operations carried in Pakistan. It is difficult for the Taliban leaders therefore to take immediate action against the TTP or force them to leave Afghanistan.

Another important thing is the influence of the Haqqani network. Many of the Haqqani network fighters come from North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Kurram, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, and the Afghan provinces like Paktika, Khost, Paktia, Nangarhar, Laghman and Kabul. If they take action against TTP fighters, their support would weaken. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister, is therefore in a very difficult position. That is why Kabul wishes Islamabad to resolve this issue through dialogue.

It has been suggested that Pakistan should hit TTP bases in its bordering areas. However, this risks increasing the hardship for the local populations as well as mounting pressure on the Afghan Taliban leadership to retaliate.

Combating terror

Meanwhile, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China and Central Asian states all face the menace of Islamic State. Threats for Afghanistan and its neighbours are on the rise due to a new form of terrorism with a global agenda.

The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist, researcher and trainer

Combating terror