When the USA 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 supply 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 in addition the Taliban’s ideological twin subsequent door, the Pakistani Taliban or TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan).
However the current 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 doubtlessly 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 underneath the highlight.
As just lately as spring final yr Pakistani Taliban chief Noor Wali Mehsud advised CNN that in return for serving to to push the US out of Kabul his group would anticipate help 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 immediately 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 warfare from inside the territory of Pakistan; utilizing Pakistani soil. We have now the flexibility to struggle for a lot of extra many years with the weapons and spirit of liberation that exist within 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 a minimum of a decade and a half, lengthy earlier than they radicalized and skilled Faisal Shazad for his brazen assault setting fireplace to a car in New York’s Occasions Sq. in 2010.
Following the Occasions Sq. assault the TTP was designated a terrorist group and remains to be thought-about a menace to US pursuits.
And whereas Islamabad is eager to minimize the menace from the group – Inside Minister Rana Sanaullah says Pakistan can “absolutely” management battle with the TTP and describes conversations with the TTP throughout the ceasefire as talks “that are held in a state of warfare” – 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 army 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 had been utilizing Afghan territory as a protected haven, sending International Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to specific its considerations 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 stored secret, he rejected this, saying: “Once we don’t want any assist from the Afghan Taliban; what’s the level 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 alternate between the 2 international locations’ militaries close to the Chaman/Spin Boldak border put up, a significant business hyperlink between the 2 international locations.
Six individuals had been killed and 17 injured. Whereas there is no such thing as a proof of direct involvement by the TTP – or a minimum of, not but – the top 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.
The US has additionally accused the Pakistani Taliban of utilizing Afghan territory, doing so in an announcement three days after the ceasefire ended by which the State Division named TTP defence chief Qari Amjad as a “Specifically Designated World 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 US is dedicated to utilizing its full set of counterterrorism instruments to counter the menace 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 stated in its assertion.
But in his interview with CNN, Mehsud was defiant saying he “didn’t anticipate 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 choice exhibits the failure of American politics,” he stated.
However he additionally shot again with a menace, that “if America takes such a step, America itself will likely be answerable for its loss. The US 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 International Minister Bilawal Bhutto is at present visiting the US and the TTP was doubtless 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 doubtless function in his talks with US administration officers in Washington, DC, that are scheduled for December 19.
However as the USA 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 just 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 just lately accused the Afghan Taliban of “the continued systemic exclusion of girls and women from just about all features of life”, and up 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 may be one other troubling prospect for the US: it could face larger stress to re-engage.