When america 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 coated not solely al Qaeda – the phobia group whose presence within the nation led to the US invasion in 2001 – but additionally 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 top 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 below the highlight.
As lately as spring final yr Pakistani Taliban chief Noor Wali Mehsud instructed CNN that in return for serving to to push the US out of Kabul his group would count on assist from the Afghan Taliban in its personal struggle.
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 straight whether or not the Afghan Taliban was now serving to his group as he had as soon as hoped.
His reply: “We’re preventing Pakistan’s conflict from throughout the territory of Pakistan; utilizing Pakistani soil. We now have the power to struggle for a lot of extra a long time with the weapons and spirit of liberation that exist within the soil of Pakistan.”
These phrases ought to be of concern not solely to Islamabad, however Washington too.
The FBI has been monitoring the TTP for at the least a decade and a half, lengthy earlier than they radicalized and skilled Faisal Shazad for his brazen assault setting hearth to a car in New York’s Instances Sq. in 2010.
Following the Instances Sq. assault the TTP was designated a terrorist group and remains 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 “absolutely” management battle with the TTP and describes conversations with the TTP in the course of the ceasefire as talks “that are held in a state of conflict” – its management of the state of affairs pivots on the TTP remaining inside Pakistan’s borders.
There are rising questions concerning the TTP’s attain and Islamabad’s notion of the state of affairs doesn’t match Mehsud’s.
In April this yr, the Pakistani navy struck targets in Afghanistan warning that “terrorists are utilizing Afghan soil with impunity to hold out actions inside Pakistan.”
And in late November, the day after the ceasefire broke down, Islamabad once more claimed the TTP have been utilizing Afghan territory as a secure haven, sending Overseas Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to precise its considerations to Kabul.
The very subsequent day the TTP claimed duty for an assault within the border province of Quetta, the place a suicide bomber had focused a police van serving to a Polio vaccination workforce, killing three and injuring 23.
When CNN pressed Meshud on Islamabad’s claims that he’s getting Afghan assist, asking him if the assist is being saved secret, he rejected this, saying: “After we don’t want any assist from the Afghan Taliban; what’s the level of hiding it?”
However, 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 international locations’ militaries close to the Chaman/Spin Boldak border put up, an important industrial hyperlink between the 2 international locations.
Six folks have been killed and 17 injured. Whereas there isn’t any proof of direct involvement by the TTP – or at the least, not but – the tip of the ceasefire has clearly raised the temperature.
The state of affairs is just getting extra flamable, with the TTP this week asserting one other three jihadi teams had joined their ranks, all from alongside the troubled Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.
America has additionally accused the Pakistani Taliban of utilizing Afghan territory, doing so in an announcement three days after the ceasefire ended through which the State Division named TTP defence chief Qari Amjad as a “Specifically Designated World Terrorist.”
That raises the chance that the US might 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.
“America is dedicated to utilizing its full set of counterterrorism instruments to counter the risk posed by terrorist teams working in Afghanistan, together with al Qaeda within the Indian Subcontinent and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as a part of our relentless efforts to make sure that terrorists don’t use Afghanistan as a platform for worldwide terrorism,” the State Division mentioned 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 “didn’t count on America to take such motion” in opposition to his group.
“America ought to cease teasing us by interfering in our affairs unnecessarily on the instigation of Pakistan – this merciless resolution exhibits the failure of American politics,” he mentioned.
However he additionally shot again with a risk, that “if America takes such a step, America itself might be accountable for its loss. America has not but understood Pakistan’s duplicitous coverage; Pakistan’s historical past is a witness that it retains altering instructions for its personal pursuits.”
Washington, for its half, faces a quandary. Pakistan’s Overseas Minister Bilawal Bhutto is at the moment visiting the US and the TTP was possible on the agenda when he met United Nations Secretary Normal Antonio Guterres for a Safety Council debate on the “upkeep of worldwide peace and safety” on December 14. It is going to additionally possible function in his talks with US administration officers in Washington, DC, that are scheduled for December 19.
However as america has already found at its price, there aren’t 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 lately easing controls that restrict the Afghan Taliban’s entry to worldwide funds, the previous terror-group-turned-government continues to fail even average worldwide expectations of fine governance.
The UN Human rights chief lately accused the Afghan Taliban of “the continued systemic exclusion of ladies and ladies from nearly all features 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 better stress to re-engage.