Pakistan, Afghan Taliban and TTP

Weeks after the deadly terrorist attack at Peshawar Police Lines, militants struck at the Karachi Police Office

Two policemen and a Rangers man were among four people martyred, while 16 others sustained injuries, when terrorists, wearing suicide vests and carrying automatic weapons and grenades, stormed the Police office

A gun battle raged for more than three hours following the assault after dusk, as security forces went floor to floor through the building in pursuit of the assailants

The forces retook the building after killing the three militants

While any loss of life is too many, the quick response from the security forces limited the damage

Initial footage and sounds of gunshots and grenades sent alarm bells among the public

But thankfully, security forces neutralised terrorists before they could inflict real damage

Nevertheless, the attack in Karachi is a grim reminder that the second phase of the war on terror is upon us

The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took responsibility of the attack, indicating that the terrorist outfit is expanding its reach beyond K-P

Observers fear that regrouped TTP is employing more modern techniques and methods to target Pakistan

Much has been said and written that how TTP managed to regain foothold because of the government’s flawed strategy to make peace with terrorists through talks

That policy is abandoned for now

No more talks with the TTP

Instead Pakistan has decided to tackle the TTP through Afghan Taliban who, despite their public denials, are protecting anti-Pakistan elements

After the Peshawar attack, Pakistan reached out to the Afghan Taliban with a clear message to deny TTP a space to operate from their soil with impunity

There have been extensive behind-the-scenes talks between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban

Officials here said that the Afghan Taliban were willing to address Pakistan’s concerns

But the division within the Taliban ranks is causing many problems, including that of the TTP, to remain unresolved

There is a tussle between hardliners and moderates within the Taliban

Hardliners want to strict to their old style of governance while moderates insist they must adhere to the Doha deal and address the international community’s concerns

But as of now it is evident that hardliners are winning the battle

Pakistani officials say that the country has other options on the table if the Afghan Taliban refuse to take care of the TTP

Other options include striking the TTP inside the Afghan territory

If eventually resorted to, that move will have its own repercussions

Pakistan’s best hope is for the Afghan Taliban to tackle the TTP issue without Islamabad needing to carry out cross-border raids

But that may just be a wish since the Afghan Taliban are unlikely to drop their support to the TTP

A latest report by a US think tank has warned that Afghan Taliban will not withdraw their support to TTP as Pakistan may not be able to launch any military offensive because of the prevailing economic crunch

“Amid Pakistan’s economic crisis and the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban have reemerged as an increasingly potent threat,” reads a report by the US Institute of Peace (USIP)

What has compounded Pakistani challenge is the precarious economic situation

The USIP report says that the deteriorating economic situation has put limits on Pakistan’s military options

“Pakistan can carry out raids and undertake defensive actions inside the country, but it doesn’t have the resources for a sustained high-intensity campaign,” USIP notes

But no matter what the situation, Pakistan has to fight and win this battle

Defeat is not an option though one must contemplate and introspect as to how we allowed these terrorists to stage a comeback when they were done and dusted few years ago

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2023

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Date:21-Feb-2023 Reference:View Original Link