Source: Dawn

Tehmina Aslam Ranjha

On February 3,  2021, pursuant to Resolutions 1526 (2004) and 2253 (2015), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued its twenty-seventh report on terrorism. The report acknowledged Pakistan’s two main contributions. First, Pakistan arrested individuals engaging in terrorism  financing. Second, Pakistan froze the assets of individuals and entities designated terrorists by the UNSC resolutions.

On October 15, 1999, the UNSC Resolution 1267 passed on Afghanistan declared Osama bin Laden and associates terrorists, besides establishing a sanctions regime to penalize the culprits of terrorism. The Resolution demanded the UN members to freeze assets, ban travelling, refrain from selling or transferring arms and military equipment to Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. After the sordid incident of 9/11 in 2001, a need emerged for keeping a watchful eye on  terrorist activities originating from Afghanistan. Over the years, terrorism spawned several organizations, including the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Daesh (or the Islamic State). The latter  travelled from Iraq to seek refuge in Afghanistan to spread around the message of the Islamic Caliphate, but the former was founded in December 2007 by Baitullah Mehsud in the tribal belt on the Pak-Afghan border. From September 2010 to July 2011, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada declared the TTP a terrorist organization.

On  June 17,  2011, the UNSC passed its Resolution 1989 and  pursuant to that, on July 29,  2011, the UNSC listed the TTP an organization associated with Al-Qaeda and brought it under  UNSC Resolution 1267. In 2014, collaboration between Daesh and the TTP was fostered. Selectively anti-Pakistan, the TTP aspired to change the government forcefully to impose an Islamic system, the Caliphate. Transcending Afghanistan, driven by a common cause, both these organizations joined hands of cooperation and spread their tentacles in the neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan. Though a dozen of resolutions improved upon the UNSC Resolution 1267 to implicate these terrorist organizations, the world kept on doubting the role of Pakistan in fighting the war on terror.

Related to Afghanistan, UNSC’s twenty-seventh report focuses on four organizations: Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and the TTP. The report says that the Afghan Taliban oversee the relevance of the Al-Qaeda and Daesh. Moreover, the existence of Al-Qaeda and Daesh is contingent upon the survival and success of the Afghan Taliban. The report reveals that the TTP had been experiencing a split within its ranks; however, Al -Qaeda remained instrumental in unifying various splinter groups into a monolithic whole, the TTP. For instance, in July and August 2020, the Shehryar Mehsud group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Hizb-ul-Ahrar, the Amjad Farooqi group, and the Usman Saifullah group (formerly known as Lashkar-e Jhangvi) joined the TTP, instead of fighting alone against Pakistan. The stabilizing role of Al-Qaeda offered a new lease of life to the TTP, as the ensuing coalescence enhanced TTP’s numerical strength up to 6,000 militants. Consequently, Pakistan experienced a surge in TTP’s sponsored attacks. From July to October 2020, the TTP caused more than 100 cross-border attacks which wrought harm on Pakistan. In this way, the report vindicates Pakistan’s position on the TTP. Further, the report acknowledges that the TTP has been using Afghan soil for triggering terrorist activities in Pakistan.

The report identifies the role of the Afghan Taliban as an umbrella organization permitting the growth  of Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and TTP. Being well-entrenched, Al-Qaeda is overseeing the rejuvenation of the TTP, besides offering due support to Daesh. The report considers that if the Afghan Taliban do not patronize Al-Qaeda, it cannot sustain in Afghanistan. That is, with the disintegration of the Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda will lose its foothold in Afghanistan and the adverse domino effect will eradicate both Daesh and TTP from Afghanistan.

On February 29, 2020, the Afghan Taliban signed the Doha Accords with the US administration to discontinue attacking US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, observe a ceasefire with the Afghan forces, engage in a meaningful intra-Afghan dialogue with the ruling Kabul regime, break off ties with the Al-Qaeda and stop sponsoring terrorism. Against this background, the report is hopeful that the Afghan Taliban would fulfill their commitments, which would aggravate problems for the Al-Qaeda leadership still hiding in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the sanguinity may face a setback because on January 20, 2021, US President Joseph Biden took over the charge of the US government and expressed his intent to review the US-Taliban Doha Accord of 2020. President Biden is of the view that, against the commitment made in the accord, the US cannot withdraw its troops from the Afghan soil by May 1, 2021 because of two reasons. First, the Afghan Taliban have not observed a ceasefire with the Afghan forces. Instead, the Afghan Taliban have continued with their attacks consuming lives of Afghan soldiers and Afghan civilians. Second, the Afghan Taliban are disinclined to enter into intra-Afghan negotiations with the ruling Kabul regime. US President has tried to convey to the Afghan Taliban that the road to peace with Washington passes through Kabul.

Pakistan reckons that it is not only Al-Qaeda, which is extending support to the TTP against Pakistan, but other countries such as India are also involved in bolstering  the TTP against it. This is where the report is short of viewing,  in a broader sense, terrorism inflicting harm on Pakistan. India might be a favourable player on the regional chessboard serving the cause of many Western countries, but it is all too focused on exploiting  its strength by pitting the TTP against Pakistan. Without a shadow of doubt, Pakistan not only uprooted the TTP from its territory, but also played a significant part in helping the US dislodge Al-Qaeda from this region. India is actively using Al-Qaeda’s militant potential against Pakistan. The report should have also  taken into account the challenges Pakistan has been facing at the hands of the TTP, which is bolstered by both Al-Qaeda and India.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect those of Pakistan Politico.

Dr. Tehmina Aslam Ranjha is an Assistant Professor in the School of Integrated Social Sciences, University of Lahore, and Research Fellow at the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research(CSSPR).