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Monday, April 15, 2024

Analyzing the surge in violence in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal

In 2021, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) insurgency escalated its challenge against Pakistan. Operating from bases in Afghanistan, and with a growing presence inside Pakistan, the group mounted an increasing number of attacks against Pakistani security forces — as well as against some critical Chinese interests in Pakistan.

In April 2021, President Joe Biden announced that U.S. military forces would leave Afghanistan by September 2021. The Taliban, which had continued to capture and contest territory across the country despite ongoing peace talks with the Afghan government, ramped up attacks on Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) bases and outposts and began to rapidly seize more territory. In May 2021, the U.S. military accelerated the pace of its troop withdrawal.

In the summer of 2021, the Taliban continued its offensive, threatening government-controlled urban areas and seizing several border crossings. In early August, the Taliban began direct assaults on multiple urban areas, including Kandahar in the south and Herat in the west.

Read more: Pakistan’s nuclear security amidst the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

How did the Taliban seize power?

The Biden administration authorized the deployment of an additional six thousand troops to assist with the evacuation of U.S. and allied personnel, as well as thousands of Afghans who worked with the United States and were attempting to flee.

Despite another decline in 2020, the first half of 2021 saw a record-high number of civilian casualties as the Taliban ramped up their military offensive amid the withdrawal of international troops.

After seizing power in August, Afghanistan’s Taliban pledged terror groups would not be allowed to operate from the country, but Pakistan militant groups have long taken sanctuary across the porous border.

They include the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which on Sunday claimed responsibility for the attack in the Kurram district of rugged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The TTP has been emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan and has stepped up attacks since a month-long truce with the Pakistan government ended last year.

The Taliban are separate groups in both countries, but share a common ideology and draw from people who live on either side of the border.

The TTP said it killed six Pakistani troops in Saturday night’s attack, but the Pakistan military’s public relations wing (ISPR) said five Frontier Corps members had died.

Read more: Turkey sends train full of aid to Afghanistan

“Own troops responded in a befitting manner,” it said, adding “terrorists suffered heavy causalities”.

Pakistan “strongly condemns the use of Afghan soil by terrorists”, ISPR said.

The army “is determined to defend Pakistan’s borders against the menace of terrorism, and such sacrifices of our brave men further strengthen our resolve”.

What does the future look like?

It took four days until Saturday for Pakistani troops to put an end to assaults by separatists in Balochistan province, with the army putting the final death toll at 20 militants and nine soldiers.

The ISPR said intelligence agents intercepted communications during those assaults on army posts that showed militants had links to Afghanistan and India.

Read more: Iran’s policy towards evolving situation in Afghanistan

Separatists have waged an insurgency in the vast southwestern province for years, fuelled by anger that its abundant reserves of natural resources are not relieving citizens from crushing poverty.