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Perspectives

Rise of terrorism in Pakistan: the army chief’s US visit all the more important

Published December 14, 2023
Taliban forces walk in front of Afghan demonstrators as they shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan protest, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 7, 2021. Photo: Reuters
Taliban forces walk in front of Afghan demonstrators as they shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan protest, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 7, 2021. Photo: Reuters

The visit of Army Chief Lt Gen Asim Munir to the United States carries significant implications given the timing and recent developments in the region. This marks his first visit as the new army chief and comes amidst a flurry of high-level engagements between US and Pakistani officials in recent weeks.

The timing of this visit is particularly noteworthy as it coincides with several critical events. Firstly, it occurs just weeks before the scheduled national elections, suggesting a potential interest in discussing matters related to security and stability.

Secondly, Pakistan’s deteriorating ties with Afghan Taliban and the escalating Gaza devastation with mounting casualties have added complexity to regional dynamics.

COAS leaves for US

The recent visit of Tom West, the US special representative for Afghanistan, to Pakistan shed light on the security challenges emerging from Afghanistan, specifically the threat posed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). During recent bilateral talks, both countries agreed on the severity of the TTP threat, with the US condemning it and vowing to assist Pakistan.

It is noteworthy, however, that there is currently no decisive commitment from the US to actively fight against the TTP or increase pressure on the Afghan Taliban.

While Pakistan and the US seemingly share a common understanding regarding the threat posed by TTP, they appear to differ in their approach to addressing this issue. Apparently, the type of response required to counter this threat remains a point of contention between both nations.

Despite acknowledging its significance, there still seems to be a gap in reaching a consensus on how best to tackle this shared challenge.

The crucial aspect of this entire calculation is the US’s perception of the TTP’s threat to Pakistan and whether it thinks Islamabad should have the assistance it needs to meet the challenge.

In this context, the first question is whether the US believes that the threat posed to Pakistan by the TTP and its affiliates is significant enough for the US to assist Islamabad.

Second, what would Pakistan be asked to give in exchange for the kind of help that the US is seeking from Pakistan?

For example, Pakistan might be urged to cease evicting Afghans from the country or perhaps provide military bases to support US involvement in the region, in addition to other forms of intelligence cooperation.

It is interesting that a day after 23 soldiers were martyred, Balochistan caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai proposed a set of counterterrorism measures, including offering the US “drone bases to target militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan”.

During the visit of the Army chief to the United States, Pakistan would like to seek substantial support from the US in dealing with threats originating from Afghanistan.

Pakistan conveys to Taliban: No mood to hold any talks with TTP

It is crucial to note that Pakistan is currently facing a challenging situation, as militants possess billions of dollars’ worth of hardware left behind by international forces during their withdrawal in 2021.

Additionally, Pakistan also faces a significant number of well-trained militants who are specifically focused on destabilizing the country.

For example, Pakistan wants military hardware support to strengthen its counterterrorism capabilities in addition to applying intense diplomatic pressure to the Afghan Taliban in order to effectively fight these threats.

Enhancing border controls and counterterrorism efforts against TTP would be made much easier for Pakistan with this help.

Pakistan may also want to draw a connection between the TTP’s threat and the national security of the United States. Should this argument be accepted by Washington, Pakistan looks to get the financial backing it needs to begin extensive counterterrorism operations even outside its borders.

Pakistan, as national elections draw closer, cannot afford to be caught in another cycle of bloodshed caused by militancy. It is crucial for the Army chief and his team to make efforts to secure tangible support from the United States. This support could potentially make a significant difference in Pakistan’s fight against militancy.

With elections on the horizon, it is imperative for Pakistan to prioritise national security and stability.

By garnering strong backing from key international stakeholders like the US, Pakistan can enhance its capabilities and effectively combat militant threats within its borders. The consequences of failing to address this issue would be dire, not only for national security but also for political stability during this critical period.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Umair Jamal

The writer is Head of the Political Desk at Business Recorder (Digital)

Comments

200 characters
TimetoMoVVeOn Dec 21, 2023 02:50am
Are you also drinking his cool aid. This had nothing to do with terrorirsim but more to shore up his image as the undemocratic unelected leader of a democratic country. This is image building nonsense. Not a a trip to sort out terrorisim
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zh Dec 21, 2023 10:19pm
The general's visit to the US has no bearing on the terrorism in Pakistan. The general is interested in decimating PTI and not TTP.
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Nida Dec 22, 2023 11:00am
A failed visit!
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