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Pakistan-Afghanistan: TTP confirms senior leader Khurasani’s death

A resurging threat: Will Afghan Taliban take any real steps to stop TTP terrorists for Pakistan?

Tuesday 18 January 2022, by siawi3

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1669205/ttp-confirms-senior-leader-khurasanis-death-calls-it-huge-loss

TTP confirms senior leader Khurasani’s death, calls it ’huge loss’

Tahir Khan

Published January 13, 2022 - Updated about 5 hours ago

The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Wednesday confirmed the death of senior leader Mufti Khalid Balti alias Mohammad Khurasani, whose killing in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan was revealed this week.

The current TTP spokesman, who also shares the Mohammad Khurasani alias with Balti, confirmed his death in a statement but shared no details of how he had died.

A senior security official from Pakistan had confirmed Balti’s killing on Monday, saying he was the current TTP spokesman. However, TTP had said Balti was not holding any position.

A militant source told Dawn.com that Balti’s funeral was held in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province on Tuesday and he was buried there.

Meanwhile, the current TTP spokesman said in a statement that the group “lost a religious scholar and expert of political affairs”, deeming it a a “huge loss”.

He said Balti joined the TTP when he migrated in 2011 and had remained active since. He was arrested in 2015 and remained imprisoned until last year before being killed on Jan 9 (Sunday).

Earlier, the Pakistani security official said Balti, aged around 50, was involved in several attacks on the people and security forces of Pakistan.

Balti had been visiting Kabul frequently since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August last year, the official added.

He had been making efforts for uniting various TTP factions and planning terrorist attacks with TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, the official said, adding that Balti had recently hinted at carrying out terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.

Despite confirmations from Pakistan and TTP itself, a spokesman for the Afghan government had denied the killing of the senior TTP member and said that no such incident had taken place.

“I do not confirm these reports. They are not true. No such incident has taken place on this (Afghan) side,” Afghan government spokesperson Bilal Karimi had told Dawn.com when asked for a comment on Balti’s killing.

Hailing from Gilgit-Baltistan, Balti had been an operational commander of the TTP for the past several years.

In 2007, he joined the banned Tehreek Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi in Swat and established close ties with Mullah Fazlullah, a former head of the TTP. He had cordial and close relations with TTP members of all tiers, officials said, adding that Balti played a vital role in the TTP’s propaganda campaign.

Officials said Balti ran a terrorist hideout in Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s Miramshah town and had fled to Afghanistan in the aftermath of operation Zarb-i-Azab. In 2014, he served as the head of the TTP media committee.

He was arrested in 2015 in Nangarhar by Afghan forces and remained at Bagram and Pul-i-Charkhi jails, according to a former TTP member, who was aware of Balti’s activities.

Balti, and other TTP militants, were freed last year in August when the Afghan Taliban resorted to releasing prisoners during their military offensive.

He was also the person who had called the media in Pakistan and Afghanistan to claim the 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.

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Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1667957/will-afghan-taliban-take-any-real-steps-to-stop-ttp-terrorists-for-pakistan-analysts-weigh-in


Will Afghan Taliban take any real steps to stop TTP terrorists for Pakistan?
Analysts weigh in

AP

Published January 6, 2022

Each year on Jan 17, Shahana bakes a cake and invites friends to her home in Peshawar. They sing happy birthday for her son, even light a candle. But it’s a birthday without the birthday boy.

Her son, Asfand Khan, was 15 in December 2014 when gunmen rampaged through his military-run Army Public School in Peshawar killing 150 people, most of them students, some as young as five. Asfand was shot three times in the head at close range.

Photo: Shahana, with her husband Ajoon Khan, sits next to photographs of their son Asfand Khan, who was killed in the 2014 assault by Taliban militants on the Army Public School in Peshawar, during an interview with The Associated Press, in Peshawar on Dec 29, 2021. — AP

The attackers were Pakistani Taliban, representing the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who seven years later have once again ramped up their attacks, seemingly emboldened by the return of Afghanistan’s Taliban to power in Kabul.

TTP regroups

In the last week of December, they martyred six Pakistani army personnel over two attacks, all in the country’s northwest.

Read more: Four soldiers martyred in gun battle with terrorists in North Waziristan: ISPR

The TTP is regrouping and reorganising, with its leadership headquartered in neighbouring Afghanistan, according to a UN report from July. These developments are raising alarm among Pakistanis like Shahana of a return of the horrific violence the group once inflicted.

While the Afghan Taliban have said their soil won’t be used to attack other countries and also rejected TTP’s claim of being a “branch of IEA”, they have shown no definitive signs of expelling TTP leaders, even as Pakistan leads an effort to get a reluctant world to engage with Afghanistan’s new rulers and salvage the country from economic collapse.

What will Kabul do?

It is a dilemma faced by all of Afghanistan’s neighbours and major powers like China, Russia and the United States as they ponder how to deal with Kabul.

Multiple militant groups found safe haven in Afghanistan during more than four decades of war, and some of them, like the TTP, are former battlefield allies of the Afghan Taliban.

China fears insurgents from its Uighur ethnic minority who want an independent Xinjiang region, which shares its border with Afghanistan. Thus, Beijing fears Afghan soil could be used as a staging ground by separatists.

Russia and Central Asian nations worry about the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which in recent years went on a recruitment drive among Afghanistan’s ethnic Uzbeks.

The TTP, meanwhile, poses a problem for Pakistan. The group perpetrated some of the worst terrorist assaults in the country, including the 2014 assault on APS Peshawar.

The TTP numbers anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 fighters, according to the UN report.

A resurging threat

“It [TTP] has also succeeded in expanding its recruitment inside Pakistan beyond the former tribal regions along the border where it traditionally found fighters,” says Amir Rana, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based independent think tank.

Analysts say the Afghan Taliban’s reluctance to clamp down on the TTP does not bode well for their readiness to crack down on many other groups.

“The plain truth is that most of the terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, aside from IS, are Taliban allies,” says Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Programme at the Washington-based Wilson Center.

“And the Taliban aren’t about to turn their guns on their friends, even with mounting pressure from regional players and the West.”

The militants’ presence complicates Pakistan’s efforts to encourage international dealings with the Afghan Taliban in hopes of bringing some stability to an Afghanistan sliding into economic ruin.

A collapse would bring a flood of refugees; Pakistan might be their first stop, but Islamabad warns that Europe and North America will be their preferred destination.

Islamabad attempted to negotiate with the TTP recently, but the effort fell apart. Rana says Pakistan’s policy of simultaneously negotiating with and attacking the TTP is “confusing” and risks emboldening like-minded insurgents in both countries.

It also worries Pakistan’s allies, he adds.

“China, which is spending billions in Pakistan, was not happy with Islamabad’s attempts at talks with the TTP because of its close affiliation with Uighur separatists,” says Rana.

The TTP took responsibility for a July bombing in the upper Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that killed Chinese engineers as well as an April bombing at a hotel in Quetta where the Chinese ambassador was staying.

Even if Pakistan were to ask the Afghan Taliban to hand over TTP leaders, it shouldn’t expect any results, says Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal which tracks global militancy.

“The Afghan Taliban will not expel the TTP for the same reasons it won’t expel Al Qaeda,” he says.

“Both groups played a key role in the Afghan Taliban’s victory. They fought alongside the Afghan Taliban and sacrificed greatly over the past 20 years.”