U.S. arms left in Afghanistan surface in Pakistan Taliban insurgency

By admin Mar13,2023 #Afghanistan #TTP

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Modern weapons and sophisticated night vision devices left behind by U.S.-led coalition forces withdrawing from Afghanistan and fleeing Afghan troops are being used by Pakistani Taliban militants to intensify attacks on law enforcement, police and experts say.

Plagued by an economic crisis, plunging currency and political polarization, Islamabad is also scrambling to contain the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a banned militant group. Emboldened by the Afghan Taliban’s victory, the TTP has essentially gone to war against the Pakistani government.

The group was responsible for 89 attacks across Pakistan in 2022, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank. That was up slightly from 87 in 2021 despite a roughly four-month cease-fire with Islamabad that was scrapped by the militants late last year.

In some attacks, police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa determined that the TTP militants used advanced weapons and gadgets that had belonged to U.S. or Afghan forces to carry out nighttime ambushes. After one such attack in the suburbs of Peshawar on Jan. 14, Moazzam Jah Ansari, the provincial police chief at the time, revealed that the TTP had conducted a “coordinated” strike using high-tech equipment like thermal weapon sights.

The attackers killed three police officers, including a senior official.

Ansari said that TTP militants had used similar equipment in ambushes in Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Lakki Marwat, the most volatile districts in the province. Police statistics show 118 officers were killed in terror attacks in the province in 2022 alone.

Moazzam Jah Ansari, the former police chief in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: He says militants are using sophisticated equipment in their attacks. © Reuters
U.S.-funded military equipment valued at $7.12 billion was in the possession of the former Afghan government when it fell to the Taliban in August 2021, according to a U.S. Department of Defense report last year.

After February 2022 attacks on two Pakistani military camps in Balochistan province, Pakistan’s then-Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad also claimed that Baloch Liberation Army separatists had used modern weapons left by the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The Taliban regime in Kabul issued several denials that the TTP and other militant groups had access to the abandoned equipment.

Yet recent TTP propaganda shows militants practicing with modern American-made weapons apparently from the Afghan army, noted War Noir, a weapons and conflict research group. They include M24 sniper rifles, M4 carbines with Trijicon ACOG scopes, and M16A4 rifles with thermal scopes.

Security experts and police officials say that the sophisticated weaponry puts cash-strapped law enforcement agencies at a disadvantage. “By using night vision devices TTP militants can see easily and target police personnel, performing their duties in the dark while policemen cannot see them coming,” said a midlevel police officer in the Dera Ismail Khan district, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He suggested that the Afghan Taliban may have given some of the spoils of war to the TTP in return for the Pakistani group’s help in recapturing most of Afghanistan in 2021.

In late January, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government provided a few dozen night vision devices to police in some volatile districts, in an attempt to counter raids under the cover of darkness. But resources are limited.

Ihsan Ghani, a security expert and former provincial police chief, said that after declaring a successful crackdown on the TTP and other violent groups in 2017, the Pakistani state had reduced the funding and capacity-building of law enforcement agencies.

“Terrorism and counterterrorism measures are like quickly shifting sand,” Ghani told Nikkei Asia. He said terrorists will fight with “at-hand technology.”

Muhammad Feyyaz, a security expert and academic associated with the University of Management and Technology, Lahore, agreed that groups like the TTP are quick to adapt. Since 2002, militants in Pakistan have used weapons ranging from remote-controlled explosives, improvised explosive devices and suicide vests to Kalashnikov rifles and rockets.

But Feyyaz said the more modern arms enhance the “TTP’s capability to undertake operations under all visibility conditions and give the terror group an edge over poorly equipped law enforcement agencies, which are struggling even to [fill ranks] and have a morale problem.”

Experts draw parallels between the departures from Afghanistan by Soviet troops in 1989 and the Western coalition in 2021. In both cases, they say, leftover weapons have ended up with myriad insurgent groups in other countries, particularly Pakistan.

Abdul Basit, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the TTP as well as Baloch separatist groups and Jihadi outfits in Indian-administrated Kashmir have obtained small quantities of modern arms and devices, including long-range sniper rifles and night vision goggles, that the U.S. had provided to Afghan forces.

“Usage of these weapons has increased the lethality and accuracy of the terrorist attacks in Pakistan,” Basit said.

March 12, 2023

Source: Nikkei Asia

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