Islamabad warns Taliban not to shelter Pakistani terrorists on Afghan soil

Islamists stepped up attacks on Pakistani security forces as Kabul accused Pakistan of bombing a refugee camp, killing 47 civilians.

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

Pakistan on Sunday accused Afghanistan of doing nothing to stop a militant terror group, camped on its soil, from carrying out deadly attacks on Pakistani security forces.

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The last two weeks have seen a sharp rise in such terrorist strikes.

On April 14, seven Pakistan Army soldiers were slain when terrorists ambushed a military convoy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s North Waziristan District, bordering Afghanistan. Security forces swiftly and successfully engaged the attackers and killed four terrorists, according to Pakistan’s Armed Forces media wing.

On April 12, two Pakistani soldiers were killed during an exchange of fire with terrorists in the South Waziristan District, which also abuts Afghanistan.

On March 30, six troops died foiling a terrorist attack in the Tank District, east of South Waziristan.

Taliban fighters stand guard at the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)Taliban fighters stand guard at the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 19, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for attacks on Pakistani security personnel.

After the seven soldiers were killed in North Waziristan, Pakistan retaliated and carried out airstrikes in the Spiri area of Afghanistan’s Khost Province and shelling in the Shiltan District of Kunar Province, killing at least 47 civilians, according to Afghan media.

“All of those killed were refugees from Pakistan’s tribal districts of South Waziristan and North Waziristan who had fled their homes during the Pakistani army’s clearing operation,” Afghanistan’s TOLO TV news channel reported.

The Pakistan government and Pakistan’s Armed Forces media wing neither confirmed nor denied that such strikes were carried out on Afghan soil.

Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul, was summoned by the Afghan Foreign Ministry over the alleged attacks in Khost and Kunar.

Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Deputy Defense Minister Mullah Sherin Akhund condemned the attacks by Pakistani forces and termed them a violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

At the same time, the Afghan chargé d'affaires in Islamabad was summoned to the Foreign Office, which strongly objected to attacks on security forces from Afghan soil.

Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar, director-general of Pakistan’s Armed Forces media wing, said on Thursday during a briefing that “in the first three months of 2022, at least 105 officers and soldiers lost their lives in various terror attacks. However, 128 militants were eliminated during this period.”

“The Pakistan Army is determined to eliminate the menace of terrorism and such sacrifices by our brave soldiers further strengthen our resolve,” Iftikhar further stated.

North and South Waziristan along with neighboring Afghan territory are considered a comparatively safe sanctuary for the TTP, al-Qaida, ISIS-K and other terrorist groups.

Security forces have long been active in efforts to eliminate the terrorists. Thousands of people have been displaced from the area and are living in camps located in Kunar, Khost and other places in Afghanistan.

Authorities in Islamabad say that TTP members, who are based in these camps, cross the border into Pakistan, attack security personnel, and flee back to Afghanistan. Security officials also say the TTP terrorists use civilians as human shields.

An Islamabad-based senior security official told The Media Line that “Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s notorious and most-wanted fugitive, [TTP Waziristani] commander Yasir alias Parakeye, along with his close associates, are residing in Khost camp. Despite several requests, why are the [Afghan] Taliban not handing him over to Pakistan? He is responsible for attacking our security forces.”

“Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leadership is operating from Afghan soil and it has announced a new spring offensive against Pakistani security forces since the first day of Ramadan,” said the official, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.

Meanwhile, Asim Iftikhar Ahmad, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, on Sunday confirmed that “in the last days, Pakistani security forces are being targeted from across the border.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan have been engaged for the past several months through institutional channels for effective coordination. Unfortunately, elements of banned terrorist groups in the border region, including TTP, have continued to attack Pakistan’s border security posts, resulting in the martyrdom of several Pakistani troops,” he said.

“Pakistan, once again, strongly condemns terrorists operating with impunity from Afghan soil to carry out activities in Pakistan,” he continued. “Pakistan requests the sovereign government of Afghanistan to take stern actions against the characters involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan.

“Pakistan also takes this opportunity to reaffirm respect for Afghanistan’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ahmad said.

Suhail Shaheen, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Doha-based spokesman and ambassador-designate to the United Nations, told The Media Line that “innocent children, men and women were killed in the recent strikes carried out by Pakistan.”

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the name given by the Taliban to the country, previously called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

“Such episodes will not solve issues, but will create mistrust and tension between the two neighboring and brother countries. The only proper avenues for solution of such disputes are diplomatic channels,” Shaheen added.

“Afghans are peaceful people. We want to build good relations with neighbors, but provoking us serves no one. Look at history!” he said.

In response to The Media Line’s question about Pakistan’s assertion that TTP militants are operating from Afghan soil, Shaheen said: “We strongly believe that such claims should be dealt with and resolved through diplomatic channels only, not through airstrikes.”

Ali Maisam Nazary, the head of foreign relations for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF), a military alliance of former Northern Alliance members and other anti-Taliban fighters, told The Media Line in an exclusive interview that “the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crisis will not be resolved since Afghanistan has no proper government at the moment.”

“Afghanistan is in a state of anarchy; a terrorist and proxy group controls most of the country,” Nazary added.

“The NRF and its leaders already warned Pakistan before [Kabul fell to the Taliban on] August 15, 2021, that such a set-up in Afghanistan will have security consequences for Pakistan, and today we are experiencing it,” he said. “Islamabad will face worse security problems in the future as Afghanistan once again becomes a sanctuary for international terrorism.”

“The Taliban are part of the global jihadist movement and they will never risk losing the legitimacy they receive from this ideology and from other terrorist groups, including Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” Nazary continued.

“Pakistan still has time to shift its policy vis-a-vis the Taliban and genuinely start forcing them to stand down and allow a national and inclusive government that represents all ethnic and religious groups,” he said.

“The National Resistance Front believes with such acts [alleged bombardment] by Pakistan, Afghanistan has lost its independence and territorial integrity,” Nazary said.

Farzana Shah, a Peshawar-based leading security and defense analyst, told The Media Line that: “It is on the record that Pakistan has repeatedly requested Afghan officials to take stern action against banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan terrorists based in Afghanistan.

“It is also documented that during the last three months terrorist attacks on the Pakistan Army have escalated, and all of them were carried out from across the border,” she said.

“Despite providing solid pieces of evidence about the terrorists’ camps on Afghan soil, the Taliban government did not take any serious action against TTP safe hideouts in Afghanistan,” she continued. “The Taliban’s assurances that Afghan territory would not be used against any country were limited to rhetoric.”

“After the deaths of its seven soldiers in the recent terror attack, Pakistan pounded the TTP camp in Afghanistan. The frustrating attitude of the Afghan authorities compelled Pakistan to take such action,” Shah said. “Pakistani retaliation has resulted in the killing of 33 terrorists, including a most wanted TTP commander. Civilians were killed because terrorists used them as human shields,” she added.

“Despite the loss of lives, Pakistan’s concerned authorities are maintaining restraint and hope for mutual cooperation with the Afghan government to deal severely with Tehrik-i-Taliban terrorists,” Shah said.

Salman Javed, an Islamabad-based political analyst and the director-general of the Pak Afghan Youth Forum, told The Media Line that the “banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, its rank and file, have a strong feeling that they found a safe haven in Afghanistan, and the main reason is the soft attitude of Afghan officials toward them.”

Another main issue, he added, is that “TTP terrorists have infiltrated the lower rank and file of Afghan Taliban forces, thereby influencing the decision-making process of the local commanders, particularly against Pakistan’s border forces.”

“The only option for the Afghan government is to adhere to the Doha Agreement, where they committed that their soil would not be used against any other country,” he underscored, referring to the 2020 agreement between the United States and the Taliban.

“Pakistan needs to build cooperation with Afghan border security forces to sort out miscreants, terrorists and smugglers who are wreaking havoc on border areas and forcing the two nations into a standoff,” Javed said.