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Saturday, April 13, 2024

The dilemma of uncertainty in the Taliban’s regime

When the Taliban swept into power last August, many expected they would reprise the draconian governance of their 1990s emirate. Despite pledges of moderation and reform from some Taliban factions, one year later, those predictions have largely turned out to be prescient.

The peace agreement that was signed between the Afghan Taliban and the US in early 2020 is slowly becoming obsolete, especially the clause that states that no terror outfit should be allowed to carry out its activities using Afghan territory, which was and still is considered a safe haven for many terrorist organizations. Another clause states that the Afghan Taliban will cut off all their links with these terror organizations at once, especially Al-Qaeda. Afghan Taliban senior leadership has also acknowledged the fact that no terror activity will be launched from the territory of Afghanistan onto any of its neighboring countries, which has been the case in the past.

But recent events indicate otherwise. Afghanistan is not still just a safe haven for terror outfits, but there have been multiple terror attacks launched on Pakistan using Afghan territory. The peace agreement is the only legitimate thing on the basis of which the international community is engaging with the Taliban government. If the Afghan Taliban are unable to hold the stick from their end, things can go south really fast. All the international recognition efforts of the Afghan Taliban will go to waste if the US today decides to break the peace accord on the basis of recent events that clearly put the Taliban in a defensive position.

Read more: Taliban celebrate anniversary of US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Why was Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul?

The recent killing of Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri has raised many questions. The whole narrative and agenda to drag Pakistan into the matter are merely to divert the attention from the actual point of contention. Whether Pakistan’s airspace was used in the drone attack on Ayman Al-Zawahiri is not important. What is important is what Al-Zawahiri was doing in Afghanistan in the first place. Also keeping in mind that no scientific evidence was produced by Mullah Yaqoob and he himself admitted that Afghanistan doesn’t have a radar. According to media reports, Al-Zawahiri’s compound was located in a very posh area of the capital city Kabul. It is not possible that the government of Afghanistan was unaware of his presence this whole time.

Many speculators believe that even after so many years, the Afghan Taliban seems to have learned absolutely nothing. From a neutral point of view, it seemed as if the Taliban government was giving refuge to Al-Zawahiri, just as they gave refuge to Osama Bin Laden in the past. This fact alone is a pretty fair reason for the US to withdraw from the peace accord with the Taliban let alone the Taliban’s lost credibility in the international community.

Read more: Taliban Allege US Drones Invade Afghanistan from Pakistani Airspace

ISKP: a huge challenge for the Taliban government

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province has proved to be a rather bigger challenge than fighting the Americans. The intensity of ISKP’s attacks in Afghanistan has significantly increased compared to last year. The saying perfectly fits this security scenario is that “Winning war is easy, but maintaining peace is difficult” or in this case, even holding ground. ISKP’s attacks are not limited to Afghanistan therefore countries in the central area in the north and Iran in the south are also very cautious of the security situation of Afghanistan. Pakistan too has concerns regarding ISKP’s activities in the region. The Taliban government will further lose its credibility and authority if ISKP’s attacks increase in Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and the region.

According to media reports on Friday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in Herat province. The explosion took place at one of the biggest mosques in western Afghanistan and killed at least 18 people, including Mujib ur Rahman Ansari, an influential imam who earlier this year called for those who commit “the smallest act” against the govt to be beheaded. According to other reports total of 6 terrorist attacks took place in the month of August including an attack on a Taliban convoy in Kabul, killing 3 Taliban members.

TTP’s presence in Afghanistan

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s presence and activities in Afghanistan are no secret. TTP has over the years used the Afghan territory against Pakistan with the help of Indian RAW and Afghan NDS. TTP is still continuing its terror attacks on Pakistan even under the Taliban government’s umbrella. Major attacks include the Miranshah suicide bombing and Karachi Saddar bombing in May and Peshawar Mosque attack on 4th March 2022.

TTP’s terror activities have also created a troublesome situation for the Taliban government. An important thing to note is that TTP claims to be part of TTA but also has a clear allegiance to the ideology of ISIS/ISKP. This factor has created a conflict of interest in regard to the Taliban government’s sheltering of TTP elements.

Read more: UNSC divided over travel ban on Taliban

Pakistan’s pressure on the Taliban Government

Some reports also suggest that Pakistan has put immense pressure on the Taliban government due to which TTP is being forced to exit Afghanistan and have peace talks with the government of Pakistan which is not ready to accept TTP. Furthermore, Pakistan has also expressed its concerns towards the Taliban govt on TTP’s terror activities directed towards them.

The confrontation situation between the TTP and TTA has created confusion in TTP’s Shura on what their next step would be. A press release was recently issued by the Afghan Ministry of Finance stating that some TTP Jihadis have taken the entire country hostage and humiliated and dehumanized the population. This shows a clear conflict of interest and friction between the TTP and TTA. Further fractions in the TTP are also expected as it is not a single entity but rather based on different militant groups with somewhat common interests and objectives.

Fractions in the TTP?

As discussed above, TTP is not a singular entity that operates like a regular army. It is based on different terrorist groups with their own Ameers, commanders and their political objectives. Such as Jamat Ul Ahrar, Al Qaeda, IMU, TIM and many others. According to reports TTP consists of a total of 5000 approximate fighters. There are also some reports that suggest TTP fighters are on the verge of further defection.

TTP fighters are demoralized and there seems to be a perception that the Shura collects all the money and enjoys perks while the foot soldiers die for no reason. TTP is facing discord from within at the moment. In Swat, some Taliban have requested the security forces for their return to Pakistan. TTP is neither getting refuge in Pakistan nor Afghanistan.

It has also come to attention that TTP leadership is killing its own people by making them fight among themselves and is getting money for this. It’s due to this reason that the members of TTP and their families are befuddled. Now, even the Shura of TTP is trying to talk to Pakistan’s officials regarding their return. It has been revealed to this group of a few thousand people that it is impossible to fight the state. Whereas in Pakistan, some extremist groups are spreading propaganda about TTP resuming operations in Pakistan by sharing old videos and photos, TTP is not relocating.

Read more: 1 Year of the Taliban Government: Challenges and solutions

So, now Pakistan has no threat from this extremist organization. At the moment, peace talks with the TTP and Pakistan’s future relations with Afghanistan are two topics that are the center of speculation. Post US withdrawal situation from Afghanistan has further intensified the complexity of the already entangled scenario.



The writer has a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad and often writes on geopolitics, international developments and Af-Pak affairs.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.