Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has commenced a resurgence that jeopardises the country’s security environment. In the past few years, Pakistan has witnessed a substantial surge in terrorist attacks with TTP as the forerunner of this storm. TTP, expected to be in a decline, has emerged again as a formidable threat for the security landscape of Pakistan.
TTP seeks to establish and implement Shariah law in Pakistan by claiming that the country’s current judicial and other political structures are entirely ‘un-Islamic’ and they are partaking in defensive Jihad against Pakistan’s armed and security forces. Regardless of the number of endeavors of each new government, preserving cordial relations with TTP continues to remain problematic. In the past, TTP has preserved substantial following in the region of KPK, especially close to the Afghan border, which enabled it to execute attacks even in locales that were previously believed to be secured from terrorism.
TTP is currently striving to attain a strong hold in Balochistan. The most recent massacre in the town of Zhob, which martyred nine Pakistani soldiers, is an obvious illustration of the TTP’s growing penetration into new and relatively secured territories, upsetting the peace in the area as a result. It has been reported that during the attack, TTP members utilised uniforms, weaponry and cutting-edge technology like M16, abandoned by the US in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s security officials worried that TTP would turn into a proxy for hostile intelligence agencies after the US retreated from Afghanistan. However, the strength of the group began to decline as a consequence of efficient military operations such as Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, which drastically affected their strategic and commercial supply chains. Nevertheless, the withdrawal of the US forces from the territory of Afghanistan left a space for the regrouping and reorganisation of TTP.
The fall of Kabul and the emergence of the Afghan Taliban empowered TTP. Both groups share strong ideological ties and TTP exploited the situation in Afghanistan to conduct cross border strikes. Additionally, their collaboration promoted the escalated radicalisation among its own members. The permeable Pakistan-Afghanistan borders assisted the operational attacks of TTP, while opening the door for recruitment and preserved supply chains. In May 2023, the militants also claimed that they have successfully carried out more than 75 attacks in the territory of Pakistan, which is a shockingly high number. They have used several methods including sectarian violence, targeted killings, kidnapping, suicide bombings and guerrilla tactics. The TTP ambitions to merge with different militant groups is also fostering the TTP’s revival. One of the significant examples of it is the recent amalgamation with the Yasir Dawar group from North Waziristan by promising allegiance to Noor Wali Mehsud. Furthermore, a Baloch jihadist faction from Makran and two other militant groups from Quetta and Kalat headed by Asim Baloch and Akram Baloch have recently joined hands with TTP according to some reports. The TTP successfully united with approximately 28 militant groups from July 2020 onwards. These mergers have bolstered the TTP operational capacity and extended its influence in these areas as well.
The ‘Endgame Strategy’ of Pakistan that was centered on the assumption that TTP would lose its ideological justification and authenticity in the post-conflict period in Afghanistan turned out be a miscalculation. The resurgence of TTP has various implications for Pakistan’s security as it jeopardises peace and regional stability. Security forces of Pakistan have carried out several effective operations in the affected areas, including Balochistan, to deal with TTP’s imminent threat. However, the actions and operations of the armed forces solely would not be sufficient to entirely eradicate the TTP’s threat. Pakistan must focus on socio-economic prosperity and enhance the learning prospects, especially in the marginalised areas in order to combat militancy and lessen the enticement of extremist ideologies, because, the financial and economic deprivation would make fragile youth more susceptible to TTP’s recruitment. Moreover, the economic downfall in Pakistan together with aid cutoffs due to inadequate measures for countering terrorism highlights the significance of more robust partnerships to combat terrorism.
In addition, a comprehensive approach including strategic planning, information sharing, joint operations and regional cooperation is essential with countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, USA and especially Afghanistan to efficiently counter TTP’s rise and prevent them to make sanctuaries in Afghanistan. In this way, Pakistan would be able to control the cross border attacks by TTP militants.