September 9, 2023

By Syed Wiqas Shah


On September 6 at roughly 5:00 am, large swathes of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants armed with heavy artillery poured in from Kunar, Afghanistan, and launched an attack on border villages in three key spots: Bumburet Valley, Dorah Pass, and Jinjiret Koh. The move was ostensibly to capture Chitral, a tough, mountainous region that holds significant strategic value as an ideal base for guerilla forces as well as due to its proximity to Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

It is known that the TTP was indeed responsible for the attack, as the proscribed militant organization announced as such on its official social media accounts. Moreover, it also declared that its forces had managed to capture a few villages and security checkposts. News of this worrying development, however, reached the local populace nearly 12 hours later, at around 4:00 pm, due to poor network and internet connectivity.

A Shashi Koh local said that rumours of an attack by the Taliban began circulating when residents heard gunfire from the border villages. Their concerns quickly turned to panic when they witnessed helicopters of the Pakistan Army hovering in the sky.

Pakistan Army counters attacks

Per the official statement of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), a large group of terrorists equipped with the latest weaponry attacked two Pakistani military posts located near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border along Kalash, Chitral.

“Terrorists’ movement and concentration in Gawardesh, Pitigal, Barg-i-Matal and Batash areas of Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan had already been picked up and were timely shared with Interim Afghan Government,” the press release read, further adding that all military check posts were put on high alert in anticipation of the attack.

At least 12 militants were killed, while the ISPR reported that many among the invading forces were also critically injured. The Pakistan Army, on the other hand, suffered four casualties, while a search operation to eliminate any other terrorist elements is currently underway. The ISPR also lauded Chitral’s locals for supporting security forces during the operation.

“Interim Afghan Government is expected to fulfill its obligations and deny the use of Afghan soil by terrorists for perpetuating acts of terrorism against Pakistan,” the statement further read.

Situation ‘under control’ amidst high alert

Deputy Commissioner (DC) Lower Chitral Muhammad Ali Khan stated in a brief to the media that nine terrorists were killed while 42 were injured when they crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan, infiltrating Astoi Pass in Bumburate Valley and Jinjiret Koh. He further said that while four security personnel were martyred and five were injured during clashes with the terrorists, the situation is now under control. 

However, in its latest press release, the TTP has claimed that warfare is ongoing in different areas of Chitral, including Garm Chashma, Arimbu, Shashi Koh, Bumburet, Jinjiret Koh, Darosh, Ashrit Dara and Arnoi Janshal. The statement claims that while its forces are under fire from the Pakistan Army’s gunshops, the TTP has yet to suffer any casualties.

Locals in Ursoon and Astoi villages in the Bumburet Valley told local media that gunshots could still be heard in the distance. Roadways leading to these areas have been closed by the Pakistani military; however, the local populace states that they have no reason to panic.

Abdul Akbar Chitrali, a former Member of the National Assembly, also told that the under-siege areas are far from where they are situated and that there is no impending threat to the locals.

“The situation is normal. Our everyday lives are going on uninterrupted,” he said.

Per the district administration, police have been on high alert for the past week, even carrying out a flag march after receiving intelligence reports of an impending attack on Lower Chitral from across the Afghanistan border.

A history of attempted invasions

It may be surprising to many, but this is not an unheard-of occurrence. Militants associated with the TTP and its offshoots based on Afghan soil have intruded into Pakistan’s border areas in multiple attempts to seize control.

In August 2011, terrorists numbering in the hundreds crossed the Afghan border and attacked three security checkpoints in Lower Chitral, killing around 20 paramilitary personnel. Similarly, in July 2016, militants infiltrated the Sheikhan Deh area of the Bumburet Valley, killing two farmers and stealing their cattle. A few weeks ago, a girls’ school in the Ursoon area of Chitral’s Drosh Village was set on fire by Afghanistan-based TTP militants.

Did the Afghan Taliban administration play a role in this?

However, in regards to the latest clash, questions arise as to why the TTP chose to attempt an invasion of Lower Chitral’s border areas on September 6, which is when Pakistan celebrates Defence Day.

How easy was it to move dozens of TTP militants armed with heavy and sophisticated weaponry from Afghanistan’s Paktia Province to Khost Province? Why did the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan (IEA) administration fail to notice this extraordinary mobilization of fighters? Was the cross-border exchange of fire between the Afghanistan and Pakistan border forces at the Torkham border a distraction?

Suspicion arises following a tweet by Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary, who stated that, per reliable sources, around 50 to 60 Afghan Taliban joined the TTP’s offensive against Pakistani forces, reportedly in Chitral.

Meanwhile, another senior Afghan journalist on the condition of anonymity told that the IEA’s core leadership believes that Pakistan is harbouring Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) leaders and facilitating the outfit’s entry into Afghanistan. The source also stated that IEA Spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid informed the media that 43 ISKP militants of Pakistani origin are in the custody of the Afghan Taliban.

“This is why some key IEA leaders are supporting the TTP to keep a check on Pakistan,” he said.

On the other hand, various social media accounts affiliated with the former Afghan government are of the opinion that the Taliban administration fears Pakistan is attempting to establish a route to the Central Asian Republic via the Wakhan Corridor, which is why they may be facilitating TTP militants in the border provinces of Kunar, Nuristan, and Badakhshan as a check.

Meanwhile, the IEA Spokesperson told Afghan media that the Taliban administration categorically rejects Pakistan’s claims of the TTP using Afghan soil to spring the attack on Chitral, terming the allegation baseless.


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