When the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August last year, government officials, retired military officers, and hard-line clerics in neighbouring Pakistan celebrated the militant group’s return to power, RFE/RL reported.
Observers had warned that the Taliban’s forcible takeover of Afghanistan could galvanise Pakistan’s own violent insurgency.
Those fears have now been realised as the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has intensified its attacks in recent months, the report said.
In a further blow to Islamabad, the Afghan Taliban has been unwilling to crack down on the TTP, a close ideological and organizational ally. A major Pakistani military offensive in 2014 drove many of the militants from the country’s tribal belt across the border to Afghanistan.
Analysts say the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has emboldened and strengthened the TTP. The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in August last year significantly reduced US airstrikes in the region, allowing the TTP to operate more freely, the report said.
TTP fighters have also obtained sophisticated weaponry, including US-made firearms, which their Afghan allies seized from Afghanistan’s defeated armed forces.
Since the talks collapsed, the TTP has carried out a spate of deadly attacks against Pakistani security forces. The militant group claimed responsibility for the killing of four Pakistani soldiers in the North Waziristan tribal district on December 30, 2021. A day earlier, one police officer was killed in the same district by armed militants on motorcycles who managed to escape, RFE/RL reported.
Abdul Basit, a Pakistani counterterrorism and security expert, says the TTP is sending a signal to Islamabad that it is negotiating from a position of strength.
Basit says the TTP mostly targets Pakistani security forces and has moved away from a global to the local jihadist narrative.
“The group’s change in focus and rhetoric coupled with the sanctuaries at its disposal in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime makes the TTP a long-term threat for Pakistan,” he says, the report added.
Abdul Sayed, a Sweden-based researcher who tracks militant groups in the region, says the Afghan Taliban is unlikely to bow to Islamabad’s demand that it expels the TTP or prevents it from using Afghan territory for carrying out attacks in Pakistan.
Observers say the TTP has also been boosted by the pullout of foreign troops from Afghanistan in August last year and the reduced number of US drone strikes in the region. Over the years, US airstrikes were successful in eliminating successive TTP leaders and commanders.
But with the US counterterrorism capability in the region severely diminished, TTP fighters have been allowed to move and operate relatively freely, observers say, the report added.