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Pakistan's Afghan Policy Has Backfired: Experts on TTP Resurgence

© AP Photo / Muhammad SajjadPolice officers examine the site of Monday's suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan, Feb. 2, 2023.
Police officers examine the site of Monday's suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan, Feb. 2, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 17.03.2023
Pakistan has witnessed a wave of militant attacks allegedly carried out by the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)* in recent months.
Pakistan's Afghan policy appears to have backfired and the TTP has emerged as its biggest challenge, especially at the time of economic instability in the country, New Delhi-based geopolitical pundits said on Friday.
Their comments came after Pakistan toppled Afghanistan from the top spot of countries where the most militant attacks took place last year as per a report by the Australian Institute for Economics and Peace.
According to Ajai Sahni, who runs the South Asia Terrorism Portal, Islamabad's strategy of using terrorist proxies, particularly against its neighbors, has been on a slow boomerang for decades.
"Since the Taliban** takeover of Kabul, TTP's activities have intensified, and the danger, this time around, is much greater, since their tactics have enormously evolved, and they have a secure safe haven in Afghanistan," he told Sputnik.
Sahni noted that in the earlier cycle of TTP violence, the group sought to capture and control large swathes of territory in Swat and North Waziristan. The regions were simply depopulated, and everything that remained behind was pounded out of existence from the air, or by long-range artillery fire.
"This time around, TTP is targeting Pakistan security forces in hit-and-run operations from across the border, and will be much more difficult to contain, and the group has certainly emerged as the country's greatest internal security challenge," he added.

Is TTP Turning Into Proxy Force Against Pakistan?

Sahni opined that the Taliban is certainly supporting TTP, and will continue to do so, first, because of the ideological affinity between the two groups. Second, because they have a common interest against what they call the murtad (apostate) state of Pakistan, which they seek to supplant with an 'Islamic Emirate'; and third, because the Taliban is turning TTP into a proxy against Islamabad, precisely as Islamabad had used the Taliban against Kabul under the preceding US-NATO backed regime.
The Taliban contests the Durand Line as the permanent border between the two countries and claims all Pashtun-dominated territories in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and North Balochistan.
"This will be an enduring conflict, and TTP is one of the Afghan Taliban's principal instrumentalities against Pakistan, to restore what they regard as the unity of the Pashtun nation," the terrorism specialist based in India's national capital pointed out.
While the Taliban continue to flatly deny the presence of TTP on Afghan soil, it is significant that most major TTP operations in Pakistan are currently mounted from across the border.
A Taliban fighter checks an Islamic State group house that was destroyed in the ongoing conflict between the two in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 16.03.2023
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Taliban Unlikely to Support Anti-India Activities From Afghan Soil: Experts
Moreover, over the past year, several top TTP leaders have been killed in Afghanistan, presumably in ISI-backed covert operations. The Afghan Taliban, moreover, was key to facilitating the negotiations between TTP and the Pakistan Government, which resulted in the flawed seven-month ceasefire last year.
"There can be little doubt that the Afghan Taliban is now employing precisely the strategies and tactics they had been taught by the ISI in their campaign against the predecessor regime in Kabul, in their current campaign against Pakistan. The TTP is the principal proxy in this new campaign," Sahni elaborated.

Failed Strategy of 'Keeping US Out, India Out'

Kabir Taneja, a fellow at India's premier Observer Research Foundation (ORF), who specializes in terrorism-related matters, said that Islamabad's Afghan strategy is backfiring at this point.

"The Afghanistan strategy Pakistan had developed in the past two decades — 'keeping the US out, India out' — predominantly is not working," Taneja said in a conversation with Sputnik.

"When the Taliban took control in Kabul, the ISI chief landed there and made the Afghan Taliban look a little subservient to Pakistani influence, which I think was a mistake by Pakistan, they played their cards too high," he remarked.
Taneja dubbed the TTP as the biggest challenge for Pakistan right now.

Eventually, Who is Supporting TTP in Pakistan?

In 2015-16, Pakistan conducted the Zarb-e-Azb exercise where they pushed a lot of TTP and other Pashtun militants beyond the border into Afghanistan. Some of these TTP militants joined Daesh*** Khorasan or got mingled into tribal Pashtun areas.
"The TTP is being used by Haibatullah Akhundzada, who is the chief of the Taliban as a hedging bet. We have seen the meteoric rise of TTP and they were quite quiet over the past 10 years but now they are quite emboldened. They have the backing of the Afghan Taliban," Taneja argued.
He then mentioned that Akhundzada sees the TTP as the hedge to the Haqqanis. So in case there is intra-Taliban factionalism, the TTP will also protect the Kandahari faction against other sorts of internal fissures.
The Delhi-based scholar also highlighted that the Afghan Taliban is not outrightly saying they will tackle the TTP threat against the Pakistanis because the TTP has fought with the Afghan Taliban and has also shed blood for the Afghan Taliban for 20 years.
"The TTP is a prevailing threat to Pakistan which is economically very unstable at this point," he concluded.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the experts and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.
* a terrorist organization banned in Russia
**under UN sanctions for terrorism
***Daesh Khorasan is a terrorist group banned in many nations, including Russia.