May 16th, 2021 

Bureau Report 


PESHAWAR

The Afghan-Taliban have possibly become active in the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa once again, say local reports, and in some areas they have been seen raising funds for the Afghan Jihad and holding jirgas to settle local disputes.

Experts say the Taliban’s dispersed factions in the tribal districts are reuniting under a new leadership and their activities are on the rise. There have been reports of Afghan-Taliban presence in the tribal districts of Waziristan, Kurram, Bajaur, and Mohmand.

People in Waziristan, Kurram, Mohmand, as well as Dir District, say the presence of the Afghan-Taliban in Afghanistan has increased since the US-Taliban peace agreement and the withdrawal of US troops began.

A viral video on social media, allegedly recorded in the Maidan area of Dir, shows an unidentified man speaking about the importance of the holy month of Ramzan as well as extolling virtues of jihad in a mosque.

Fundraising for Afghan jihad resurfaces

Locals in Mohmand, Kurram and Waziristan say fundraising in the name of Afghan jihad has resumed there as well. It is not possible to verify all these claims with independent sources as free entry of media representatives is still prohibited there.

Afghan Taliban jirgas in Waziristan

Nangyal Bettini, a leading member of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), claimed that armed men were still roaming openly in North and South Waziristan as part of acceptance of the‘good Taliban’. He expressed concern that the situation was once again heading towards unrest in the region.

Locals say that the Maulvi Nazir group held sway in South Waziristan while Gul Bahadur group was active in North Waziristan.

According to the local people, the Gul Bahadur group was still considered representative of the “good Taliban” despite having broken a peace agreement with the Pakistani government.

The presence of the Pakistani Taliban has been highest in this area. That is why most of the military operations have taken place in Waziristan districts. But there are also groups in these areas that did not carry out armed operations inside Pakistan. These groups, however, continued to influence events happening inAfghanistan in one form or another.

Waziristan borders Afghanistan’s Paktia and Khost districts. Locals say the Afghan Taliban groups are now more active in the territory, adding that they hold jirgas to resolve disputes between the people.

A search operation in North Waziristan on May 5 killed three soldiers, including a captain, and two terrorists. Local people say such incidents indicate that Taliban factions are reorganizing in Waziristan.

Afghan-Taliban roaming in Kurram bazaar

Kurram district is closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan as it shares borders three Afghan districts of Paktia, Nangarhar and Khost. Locals say the presence of the Afghan Taliban has increased since the US began withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Locals say the Afghan Taliban are seen openly roaming in the district’s Saddar Bazaar.

Rise in attacks in Bajaur

Bajaur is bordered by the Kunar district of Afghanistan, where the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, as well as ISIS, have been reported to be present.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on the border posts and the firing of mortar shells. A few days ago, the Pakistani border post was attacked in the district. According to the Pakistani army, the attackers came from across the border.

Afghan Taliban’s presence in Mohmand

The Mohmand district borders the Nangarhar district of Afghanistan. The district was once considered a stronghold of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar militant outfit because the group’s leader belonged to the Safi tehsil of Mohmand.

The presence of Pakistani Taliban in this district is now much less than before. However, local people say there are reports of a growing Afghan Taliban presence in the Khoizai tehsil near the Afghan border.

Taliban factions’ reunification

Experts say the Taliban’s factions in the tribal districts are reuniting under a new leadership. These Taliban factions first split in 2014 from the umbrella of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the form of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

At the same time, the movement was further disrupted by the death of several leaders in drone strikes.

But there are reports that the TTP, led by Noor Wali Mehsud, has reorganized after Mullah Fazlullah who was killed in a drone strike.

Sources say several TTP factions are rejoining the TTP. According to experts, the Taliban reorganization is reflected by an increase in terrorism attacks.

According to the FATA Research Center, a total of 35 attacks took place in the tribal districts in January this year, killing 12 security personnel, 13 terrorists and nine civilians. In February, there were a total of 28 attacks in the districts, leading to 75 fatalities. There were a total of 42 deaths in March and 34 in April respectively in terrorism attacks and security operations.

According to Mansoor Mehsud, program manager at the FATA Research Center, Pakistani Taliban attacks are on the rise this year compared to 2019 and 2020, following the military operations of Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fasaad. He said the number of attacks are likely to surge in the year ahead. He said that most incidents of unrest in the tribal districts have been recorded in North and South Waziristan tribal districts.

Mohsin Dawar, a member of the National Assembly from Waziristan, wrote an open letter to President Arif Ali on May 5, calling for a joint sitting of parliament on the deteriorating security situation in the tribal districts. Dawar said that the parliament should consider the security situation in Waziristan, reorganization of the Taliban, incidents of targeted killings and other issues. Other opposition parties and the government have not yet supported his demand of convening a joint session of the parliament.

Our correspondent Baseer Qalandar contacted the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa spokesperson, Kamran Bangash, and asked him about the growing Afghan Taliban activities in the tribal districts.

“The law enforcement agencies are proactively ensuring peace in the tribal districts and making sure no militants re-organization take place,” Bangash told Voicepk.net.

“We’ve been equipping police in terms of capacity building and security equipment to tackle any kind of challenges,” he added.

The security situation is changing rapidly with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pakistan has succeeded to some extent in convincing the world that it does not support state terrorism. But reports of Afghan Taliban mobilization in Pakistan can weaken this impression. If the government does not address the rapidly deteriorating security situation, fears that the tribal areas could once again be plunged into violence and war could come true.

 

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