TTP, Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an outlawed terrorist organization emanating from Pakistan has long found its sanctuaries in Afghanistan. The Doha deal between the US and Afghan Taliban ensures that Afghan soil will not be used as a terrorist launch pad against any state including Pakistan. TTP however, poses a direct security threat to Pakistan and was the cause of more deaths in 2021 alone than in the last six years combined.
TTP congratulated the Afghan Taliban on its victory against the Americans and vowed to keep the fight alive against Pakistan. While the Afghan Taliban have offered to broker an agreement between Pakistan and the TTP, the problem is much more deep-rooted, complex and grave.
Prior to the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the Pakistani government repeatedly accused Ashraf Ghani’s government of harboring the anti-Pakistan TTP and believed that if the Taliban come to power, it would limit these groups’ freedom of action. Contrary to these expectations, the Afghan Taliban’s return to power has strengthened the TTP.
Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban now find themselves in a rather edgy situation where the former harboured support for the latter and the latter has some favors to return. Dealing with the TTP issue is a ticking time bomb for the Afghan Taliban with some of its leaders sharing strong ties with the former who fought alongside the group against its western allies. Pakistan cannot push the Afghan Taliban beyond a certain degree to combat TTP since it risks the TTP members defaulting and joining the ranks of Daesh, which is an existential threat to the Taliban.
Because of geopolitical realities, a settlement remains the only option in the short term for both sides and compromises will have to be made by Pakistan, TTP and Afghan Taliban.
Does this mean all hope is lost for the Pakistani government and the Taliban to deal with the TTP? The query cannot be answered with a definitive or concrete plan, but there is room for manoeuvre on the part of the TTP and Taliban-- with little policy options for Pakistan.
The absence of the former US-installed Afghan government and US forces make it easier for both TTP and Pakistan to hold dialogue. Earlier, this wasn’t an option since it posed a direct threat to both the above mentioned parties. TTP holds the Afghan Taliban in great value, and will have to show a softer approach in its negotiations with Pakistan.
TTP is aware of the Taliban’s problems. With an economy on the brink of devastating collapse, the international community closely monitoring the Taliban’s support or sympathy for banned outfits, Pakistan is engaging closely and cashing in on concessions for the Taliban. TTP needs to save the Taliban from a strong backlash.
TTP comprises two-third of fighters that can pose a direct threat to the region and the West. If these fighters continue mounting attacks in Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban’s promise to the West will be annulled, further increasing the mistrust of the international community.
It is rare for a terrorist organization to be monolithic. There is no guarantee of lifetime fidelity to the leaders. If the members or fighters sense religious degradation caused by upper chamber policies, they can easily disintegrate and join opposing sides.
Having laid out all that is concerning, implementation of Sharia law in Pakistan is the major goal of the TTP. The group maintains that it will not give up arms until the goal is achieved and achieving a quick peace deal is unlikely. Yet, because of the geopolitical realities, a settlement remains the only option in the short term for both sides and compromises will have to be made by Pakistan, TTP and Taliban.
Because of the sympathy among high ranking leaders of the Afghan Taliban, it is almost impossible for the group to crack down on TTP. With sanctuaries at their disposal in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, TTP remains a long-term threat to Pakistan even if the imminent danger subsides circumstantially.
– Naila Mahsud is a Pakistani political and International relations researcher, with a focus on regional politics and security issues.