EDITORIAL: The proof of the pudding will lie in the eating, no doubt, even as a high-level Pakistani delegation returns from Kabul with assurances that the Afghan government will finally address the issue of TTP sanctuaries in their country.

News reports suggest that the Taliban government changed its earlier position, which rejected the charge that TTP was leveraging its Afghan safe haven to plan and execute attacks in Pakistan, only after Islamabad put its foot down and tied any further cooperation to a crackdown on the militant group.

Perhaps Kabul finally realised that any more foot dragging on this issue risked compromising its only link to the international community, since Pakistan is the only country that still engages with it on numerous levels.

Surely, it’s also been conveyed to them that it’s not just a reduction in the number of attacks that we’re looking for, but rather a thorough degradation of TTP; one that sees its leadership eliminated or incarcerated and its operational ability finished. For that the Afghan Taliban will also have to help contain the border, which means it can no longer order its foot soldiers to destroy parts of the border fence at will and upload cheap videos on the internet.

It’s a good thing that Pakistan is very familiar with the terrorism landscape of the bordering country, and understands the Taliban’s own security concerns from groups like IS-K – the so-called Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari did a very good job of enlightening the international community about this threat, along with other realities of present-day Afghanistan that the world continues to turn its back to, at the Munich Security Conference 2023 recently. So it is in the Taliban’s, and Afghanistan’s, own interest to address Pakistan’s concerns very seriously; otherwise, this crucial window will also slam shut.

It seems the security establishment has finally realised how far behind the curve it has been in this matter. It was precisely because it listened to the Afghan Taliban and initiated peace talks with TTP, even as the latter put up ridiculous demands and continued attacking the state, that the situation has become so desperate. Now, on top of the security challenges and unacceptable loss of innocent lives, the economy is also suffering because TTP’s insurgency is driving away what little foreign investment was still considering coming to Pakistan.

It’s also been reported that the visiting Pakistani delegation, which included the defence minister and ISI chief, passed crucial intelligence about TTP to the Taliban. Since they must also possess some intelligence of their own, and know just where TTP stores its lethal inventory and how it smuggles it into Pakistan, it shouldn’t take too long for results to start showing.

Islamabad understands that the Taliban’s current top leadership is not very friendly towards it, but Kabul also needs to learn that it has very few options and must cooperate with Pakistan. It must also not forget that it was Pakistan that facilitated the US withdrawal, when all sorts of initiatives involving a host of countries failed, which enabled the Taliban to claim victory and return to power.

And also that it promised to sort out TTP once it was back in control of the country. Now it is time to deliver on that promise. Pakistan will neither incur any more damage nor lose more lives because the Taliban cannot make up their minds about the right way forward. Hopefully, this time they understand the gravity of the situation and make their actions reflect their words.

March 5, 2023

Source: Business Recorder

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