When the US withdrew its forces from Afghanistan after 20 years within the nation, it did so on a promise that the Taliban as soon as again in authorities would offer no haven for terrorist teams.
The Taliban pledge lined not solely al Qaeda – the phobia group whose presence within the nation led to the US invasion in 2001 – but in addition the Taliban’s ideological twin subsequent door, the Pakistani Taliban or TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan).
However the latest break down of an already shaky year-long ceasefire in neighboring Pakistan between the TTP and Islamabad raises some troubling questions over whether or not that promise will maintain.
The tip of the ceasefire in Pakistan threatens not solely escalating violence in that nation however probably a rise in cross-border tensions between the Afghan and Pakistani governments.
And it’s already placing hyperlinks between the Afghan Taliban and its Pakistani counterpart beneath the highlight.
As just lately as spring final yr Pakistani Taliban chief Noor Wali Mehsud informed CNN that in return for serving to to push the US out of Kabul his group would count on help from the Afghan Taliban in its personal battle.
Like their erstwhile brothers in arms in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban need to overthrow their nation’s authorities and impose their very own strict Islamic code.
In an unique interview with CNN this week, Mehsud blamed the ceasefire’s breakdown on Islamabad, saying it “violated the ceasefire and martyred tens of our comrades and arrested tens of them.”
However he was extra guarded when requested immediately whether or not the Afghan Taliban was now serving to his group as he had as soon as hoped.
His reply: “We are fighting Pakistan’s war from within the territory of Pakistan; using Pakistani soil. We have the ability to fight for many more decades with the weapons and spirit of liberation that exist in the soil of Pakistan.”
These phrases needs to be of concern not solely to Islamabad, however Washington too.
The FBI has been monitoring the TTP for not less than a decade and a half, lengthy earlier than they radicalized and educated Faisal Shazad for his brazen assault setting fireplace to a automobile in New York’s Instances Sq. in 2010.
Following the Instances Sq. assault the TTP was designated a terrorist group and continues to be thought of a risk to US pursuits.
And whereas Islamabad is eager to minimize the risk from the group – Inside Minister Rana Sanaullah says Pakistan can “fully” management battle with the TTP and describes conversations with the TTP throughout the ceasefire as talks “which are held in a state of war” – its management of the state of affairs pivots on the TTP remaining inside Pakistan’s borders.
There are rising questions in regards to the TTP’s attain and Islamabad’s notion of the state of affairs doesn’t match Mehsud’s.
In April this yr, the Pakistani army struck targets in Afghanistan warning that “terrorists are using Afghan soil with impunity to carry out activities inside Pakistan.”
And in late November, the day after the ceasefire broke down, Islamabad once more claimed the TTP had been utilizing Afghan territory as a protected haven, sending International Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to specific its issues to Kabul.
The very subsequent day the TTP claimed accountability for an assault within the border province of Quetta, the place a suicide bomber had focused a police van serving to a Polio vaccination group, killing three and injuring 23.
When CNN pressed Meshud on Islamabad’s claims that he’s getting Afghan assist, asking him if the help is being saved secret, he rejected this, saying: “When we don’t need any help from the Afghan Taliban; what is the point of hiding it?”
Nonetheless, cross border Afghan/Pakistani authorities tensions are constructing and got here to a lethal head once more final week in an change between the 2 nations’ militaries close to the Chaman/Spin Boldak border publish, a significant business hyperlink between the 2 nations.
Six folks had been killed and 17 injured. Whereas there is no such thing as a proof of direct involvement by the TTP – or not less than, not but – the tip of the ceasefire has clearly raised the temperature.
The state of affairs is simply getting extra flamable, with the TTP this week saying one other three jihadi teams had joined their ranks, all from alongside the troubled Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.
The USA has additionally accused the Pakistani Taliban of utilizing Afghan territory, doing so in a press release three days after the ceasefire ended by which the State Division named TTP defence chief Qari Amjad as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”
That raises the chance that the US may goal TTP commanders discovered working in Afghanistan – a lot because it killed al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone strike in Kabul in September.
“The United States is committed to using its full set of counterterrorism tools to counter the threat posed by terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, including al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as part of our relentless efforts to ensure that terrorists do not use Afghanistan as a platform for international terrorism,” the State Division stated in its assertion.
Intriguingly, the Pakistani Taliban is the one terrorist group within the area to have acknowledged al-Zawahiri’s killing.
But in his interview with CNN, Mehsud was defiant saying he “did not expect America to take such action” in opposition to his group.
“America should stop teasing us by interfering in our affairs unnecessarily at the instigation of Pakistan – this cruel decision shows the failure of American politics,” he stated.
However he additionally shot again with a risk, that “if America takes such a step, America itself will be responsible for its loss. The United States has not yet understood Pakistan’s duplicitous policy; Pakistan’s history is a witness that it keeps changing directions for its own interests.”
Washington, for its half, faces a quandary. Pakistan’s International Minister Bilawal Bhutto is at present visiting the US and the TTP was possible on the agenda when he met United Nations Secretary Basic Antonio Guterres for a Safety Council debate on the “maintenance of international peace and security” on December 14. It’ll additionally possible characteristic in his talks with US administration officers in Washington, DC, that are scheduled for December 19.
However as the US has already found at its price, there are not any straightforward options in Afghanistan.
Greater than a yr since its withdrawal and the humanitarian state of affairs within the nation continues to worsen, and regardless of the US just lately easing controls that restrict the Afghan Taliban’s entry to worldwide funds, the previous terror-group-turned-government continues to fail even reasonable worldwide expectations of fine governance.
The UN Human rights chief just lately accused the Afghan Taliban of “the continued systemic exclusion of women and girls from virtually all aspects of life”, and prior to now week they held their first public execution since coming to energy.
But if the Afghan Taliban are proven to be serving to the TTP, there’s one other troubling prospect for the US: it might face larger strain to re-engage.