Despite a 20-year-long and successful campaign against them, terrorist attacks are currently making a comeback
Twenty years after being driven from power by American forces, the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021. Pakistan continued to face intense criticism for reportedly aiding the Afghan Taliban during their conflict with the US-led coalition forces. However, by allowing all the players to participate in the debate, Pakistan ultimately played a crucial role in restoring peace to Afghanistan. Because of this, the government and people of Pakistan had great expectations that, upon the Taliban’s return to Afghanistan, they would be able to persuade the terrorist groups operating against Pakistan from Afghan territory to drop the arms and nip the scourge of terrorism in the bud. To Pakistan’s chagrin, not much has changed, and despite a 20-year-long and successful campaign against them, terrorist attacks are currently making a comeback in Pakistan. It goes without saying that accepting millions of Afghan refugees cost Pakistan almost 80,000 human deaths, economic losses of $126.79 billion since the 9/11 attacks and unimaginable socio-psychological harm and suffering brought on by mass immigration from the war-torn region.
In the ex-FATA region, the military has launched a number of military operations against terrorist organisations since 2001. The operations produced stability in the region and elsewhere in the country. While a large number of terrorists were eliminated, some were able to escape into Afghanistan. In collaboration with Indian RAW and Afghan NDS, these terrorists continue to strike Pakistani military targets and civilians living close to the border with Afghanistan. Between 3,000 and 5,000 TTP militants were present in Afghanistan as of 2019, according to the US Department of Defense.
In 2012, the Pakistani leadership gathered to discuss methods for dealing with the threat of terrorism, and in 2013, the political and military leadership in Pakistan launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb against a number of militant groups including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah, al-Qaeda, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Haqqani network. In response to the June 8 attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, for which the TTP and the IMU claimed responsibility, the operation was initiated on June 15, 2014, in North Waziristan. The operation was a success, and Pakistan has seen a significant drop in terrorism since it began.
TTP has long considered Afghanistan to be a safe haven. The threat posed to Pakistani citizens by the resurgence of terrorism is substantial. Pakistan Army, law enforcement agencies, and Chinese and other foreigners working on development projects in Pakistan are the particular targets of the latest TTP and other organisations that NDS and RAW are launching, with their evil eyes on CPEC and other development projects. The recent conflicts between the security forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan were caused by Kabul’s persistent unwillingness to recognise the Durand Line as their shared international boundary. This denial has been a major source of friction, weakening confidence and inciting animosity.
The Taliban won’t be going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. Through their collaboration in the economy, they want to increase their political capital in the area. However, they will continue to face fresh internal and global obstacles as a result of their policies toward women, political and ethnic opposition, and terrorist networks. Depending on their attitude and internal consensus, they have an equal probability of bringing about mid- to long-term order or anarchy in the region. There may not be much Pakistan can do to influence or advise the Taliban at this point.
Pakistan must adopt such a stance toward Afghanistan that is free from antagonism or appeasement. A hostile stance might intensify the animosity between the two countries, and if the Taliban rule is successful in creating order, it could return Afghanistan to its pre-Taliban state. If the Taliban lose strength, they have the capacity to revert to being an insurgent force and begin spreading terrorism internationally. Pakistan will be the first to be impacted in the worst-case scenario.