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Counterinsurgency (COIN) 101 will tell you that once a beaten insurgent force is able to sneak out of the warzone – melt across the Durand Line into Afghanistan in TTP’s (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s) case — its best bet is to recover and swell its ranks under cover of peace talks. TTP might well have been crushed if, like Sri Lanka’s insurgents, they had only the sea to fall into once pushed to the edge of the country.

But not many people were bothered even as the porous border allowed them sanctuary in an Afghanistan already pretty hostile towards Pakistan because, defeated and retreating, they were also pushed out of the headlines and everybody’s minds.

Yet the military never expected them to simply fade away and kept a vigilant eye on the western border right up to the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government. And it should have been surprised that their comeback more or less coincided with the return of its own old proxy, the Taliban, to Kabul. They promised to hunt TTP down in the border region, especially Kunar and Nuristan, but suddenly changed their mind and made it pretty clear that the only help they could offer was facilitating peace talks with TTP.

This must’ve unnerved the army because it knows that, contrary to popular opinion, TTP never shared anything other than part of its name with the Afghan Taliban at the time of its inception, except perhaps animosity for each other.

Journalists covering the war in those days, including some who were found dead after mysterious kidnappings, also documented the fact that it was an umbrella organisation bankrolled by al Qaeda after its leadership split with the Taliban and sneaked into Pakistan’s tribal area. That’s why, from Pakistan’s point of view, it made sense for the US-backed Afghan government to cajole the Pakistani Taliban even as Kabul fought the Afghan Taliban to the death.

It’s not immediately clear when the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban began seeing eye to eye. For, throughout the long war, the Afghan Taliban never allowed other outfits, be they Uzbek militias, ISIS fighters, or Pakistani Taliban, to join their ranks. Instead there were numerous reports of mini wars within the big war; one that pitted the Afghan Taliban against all the other insurgents that came to the country for the taste of the “holy war” that was cleverly marketed by mullahs across the Muslim world.

But it’s very clear that the Afghan Taliban have changed their approach to Pakistan. And it’s quite disappointing that the Pakistani establishment didn’t see this and sent delegation after delegation to Afghanistan to talk to TTP despite their ridiculous demands of undoing the KP-Fata merger and handing over control of South Waziristan to them. Now TTP feels confident enough to unilaterally withdraw from the ceasefire – not that one ever took effect properly, because there was nobody to guarantee it — and announce an open war on Pakistan once again.

Pakistan’s so-called establishment has a lot to answer for. Why did it fall for the talks when the conditions were obviously unacceptable? Why did it send jirgas comprising religious extremists to represent the whole, diverse country? Why did it turn a blind eye to public outrage in KP, especially in the Malakand division? Why is it silent as TTP resumes killings and beheadings? And why did it dismiss the Afghan mortar attack on Chaman’s civilians, killing almost a dozen people and injuring many more?

COIN 101 also warns very seriously against taking your foot off the enemy’s throat once it has been subdued. That’s exactly what Pakistan has done. And then it failed to impress upon Kabul the seriousness of its demands regarding TTP. Now it has itself, more than anybody else, to blame for the war that has come back to the country; one for which ordinary people, especially religious minorities, will once again pay for with blood and tears.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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TimeToMovveOn Dec 15, 2022 08:09pm
For all the Whys you ask in the last paragraph, here is the answer--Pakistan was busy blaming India for TTP, blaming India for this and that. So they never took their real threat from TTP seriously.
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