WASHINGTON: Pakistan pointed out on Sunday that a United Nations monitoring report highlighting the presence of various terrorist groups in Afghanistan had vindicated Islamabad’s longstanding position that such outfits posed a direct threat not only to Pakistan but to the entire region.
The 27th Report of the UN Analytical and Monitoring Team shows that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is now based in Afghanistan, has carried out more than 100 cross-border attacks during the last three months.
The report to the UN Security Council acknowledges Pakistan’s efforts to uproot terrorist groups involved in subversive activities in the Pak-Afghan region.
Two official US reports — sent to Congress last week — also underline the presence of TTP and other Pakistan-specific groups in Afghanistan and acknowledge that continued support from Islamabad allowed US and Afghan forces to weaken the ISKP, the regional branch of the militant Islamic State group.
Two US reports underline presence of TTP, other Pakistan-specific groups in war-ravaged country
On Sunday, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the reports “vindicate our longstanding position on threats posed to Pakistan and the region by groups like TTP, Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), Hizbul Ahrar (HuA) and their affiliates, based in Afghanistan”.
Pakistan has often drawn attention of the international community to the support provided to the TTP and its affiliates by the hostile intelligence agencies.
Mr Chaudhri said that such support led to the merger of JuA, HuA and other splinter groups of LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) with the TTP in Afghanistan last year.
Pakistan has also kept the international community informed of the cross-border attacks carried out by the TTP on Pakistani security forces deployed on the border.
“Pakistan acknowledges monitoring team’s efforts in exposing the hostile agencies’ sponsored collusion of anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan,” the FO spokesman said in a statement, adding that Islamabad now expected Kabul to “launch a dedicated effort to neutralise this threat” emanating from Afghanistan.
“Pakistan stands firm in its resolve to partner with international community against the menace of terrorism,” he said.
The UN report, dated Feb 3, notes that Pakistan has not only arrested “individuals engaging in terrorism financing” but also has seized the assets of those “individuals and entities” who have been designated as terrorist by related US and UN agencies.
The report underlines TTP activities in Afghanistan and expresses concern over the “reunification of (TTP’s) splinter groups” inside Afghanistan. “Five entities pledged allegiance to TTP in July and August (2020), including the Shehryar Mehsud group, Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), Hizbul Ahrar, the Amjad Farooqi group and the Usman Saifullah group (formerly known as Lashkar-e- Jhangvi),” the report adds.
Another report prepared by the bipartisan Afghan Study Group for the US Congress notes: “Beyond al-Qaeda and ISKP, two groups are of particular interest in South Asia today, among the several dozen said to be operating in the theater: Tehreek-i-Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Both have demonstrated the capacity to act as major threats to the region.”
The report warns that both groups can disturb regional peace and can cause a war between the area’s two nuclear states, India and Pakistan.
“Afghanistan remains symbolically and geographically an attractive space for jihadi groups that aspire to attack the United States, its allies, its interests, and the international order it has done so much to create,” the report warns.
The bipartisan US report also notes that the membership of the ISKP in Afghanistan largely consisted of dissident Afghan Taliban commanders, former members of the TTP and adherents of Central Asian extremist groups who had formerly been allied with al-Qaeda.
“ISKP has attracted thousands of adherents, surged, and then declined under relentless pressure from US and Afghan security forces, and occasionally the Taliban, as well as Pakistani security forces,” the report adds.
Another report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General for Afghanistan, known by its acronym SIGAR, cites Afghan officials’ judgements that “other terrorist groups including Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jaish-i-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e-Taiba are operating in eastern Afghanistan”.
The UN report goes a step ahead and cautions that the reunification of TTP splinter groups has “enhanced the threat of terrorism” not only to Pakistan but to the entire region since it has “increased the strength of TTP and resulted in a sharp increase in attacks”.
“TTP was responsible for more than 100 cross-border attacks between July and October 2020,” the report states and estimates the TTP’s fighting strength to range from 2,500 to 6,000 members.
Last year, Pakistan handed over a dossier to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the Indian sponsorship of two UN- designated terror groups – the TTP and JuA.
“We knew of India’s hand in such attacks,” Pakistan’s envoy to the UN Munir Akram had said at a press conference after handing over the dossier to the UN secretary-general. “We now have gathered irrefutable evidence that India is engaged in a systematic campaign to destabilise Pakistan through terrorist attacks, promotion of secession and subversion in what is called Hybrid/5th generation war.”
India, he said, was also seeking to utilise UNSC mechanisms to defame Pakistan by portraying itself as a victim of terrorism. “It is abusing the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to damage Pakistan’s economy.”
Since 2014, Pakistan has lost 83,000 civilians and soldiers in the fight against terrorism, which has also caused a massive setback to the country’s economic and social development — to the tune of $126 billion.
While Pakistan has successfully eradicated terrorist outfits from its soil, over the past few months cross-border terrorist attacks from ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan have escalated.
Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021