The unholy alliance between Pakistani Taliban and Daesh seriously threatens regional security
The assassin’s bullet may not have hit the envoy, but the firing incident at the Pakistani embassy in Kabul was a grim reminder of the growing terror nexus in Afghanistan threatening regional security. The shooting incident earlier this month in the Afghan capital raises questions about the Taliban administration’s commitment to not give space to transnational militant groups.
Noticeably, the gunfire targeting the Pakistani diplomat took place days after the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) called off a tenuous ceasefire and ordered the militants to launch attacks across Pakistan. Although Daesh has claimed responsibility of the attack, its links with the outlawed Pakistani militant group are well established.
Pakistani security officials believe that the assassination attempt was linked to the TTP’s declaration of war against the Pakistani state. Taliban officials said the shooter was a foreign national but his identity has not been verified. Intriguingly, the Kabul administration has completely ignored the possibility of the TTP’s links to the attack and has focus entirely on the role of Daesh.
It says a lot about the Afghan Taliban’s continuing patronage of the Pakistani militants operating from their bases in Afghanistan. The refusal of the conservative Islamic regime to act against the militant outfit with its proven linkages with global terrorist groups, has allowed greater space to transnational militant groups in that country.
The presence of transnational groups on Afghan soil doesn’t bode well for a country that desperately needs international humanitarian support to feed its people and restore economic stability.
Pakistan had begun peace talks with the outlawed TTP network on the insistence of the Afghan Taliban regime in June this year, something that had led to massive public outrage within the country. This was hardly surprising, as the move was seen as ceding to the TTP, which is recognized globally as a terror group.
In a report, Pakistan’s premier counterterrorism organization admitted that the negotiations had allowed the militants greater space to reorganize. The recent upsurge in militant activities in Swat and Waziristan districts are proof of this. Despite the ceasefire agreement, the militants continued their attacks targeting Pakistani security forces. The calling off of the truce by the group has not come as a surprise.
Moreover, it’s a fact that many of the Daesh fighters have come from the ranks of TTP factions who had taken shelter in Afghanistan after fleeing Pakistan’s military operation in the former tribal districts. While Daesh has been fighting the Afghan Taliban, the group has coexisted with TTP factions in eastern Afghanistan. More significantly, Daesh’s public messaging has been very soft on the TTP.
According to one estimate, the number of Daesh fighters in Afghanistan has swelled to 4,000. Most of them have reportedly been drawn from other transnational militant groups, and its alliance with TTP has strengthened the group. The threat posed by this terror nexus goes beyond the region. The TTP’s links with Al Qaeda are much stronger.
According to a recent UN security council report, transnational terror groups have gained much greater space in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of August last year. The regime’s refusal to cut off its ideological links with groups like TTP and al Qaeda has reinforced the fear of Afghanistan turning into the center of gravity of global terrorism. The attack on Pakistan’s embassy has fuelled the international community’s concerns.
Not surprisingly, the incident has evoked strong reactions from the international community. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) condemned the attack in the “strongest terms” and called for ensuring the safety of diplomatic and consular premises. The statement added that UNSC members underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organisers, financiers, and sponsors of such reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice.
The brazen attack on a foreign mission is likely to further isolate the Taliban administration that has yet to be recognized by any nation. The incident may discourage other countries to maintain their diplomatic presence in Kabul. The Taliban regime’s dismal record on human rights, particularly restrictions on the education and employment of women, has already drawn huge criticism. The presence of transnational groups on Afghan soil doesn’t bode well for a country that desperately needs international humanitarian support to feed its people and restore economic stability.
The attack on Pakistan’s envoy has further strained the uneasy relations between Islamabad and Kabul. Although the Taliban administration has assured that action will be taken against the perpetrators, there is no indication yet of it pulling out its support to the TTP. The conservative regime has failed to live up to its promise not to allow Afghan soil to be used by transnational militant groups, threatening not only Pakistan’s security but also Afghanistan’s stability.
- Zahid Hussain is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former scholar at Woodrow Wilson Centre and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and at the Stimson Center in DC. He is author of Frontline Pakistan: The struggle with Militant Islam and The Scorpion’s tail: The relentless rise of Islamic militants in Pakistan. Frontline Pakistan was the book of the year (2007) by the WSJ. His latest book ‘No-Win War’ was published this year. Twitter: @hidhussain