Pakistan’s Multi-Dimensional Counterterrorism Strategy In Flux Against The TTP – OpEd


Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) a militant organization is fighting against the state in Pakistan. It is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks throughout the country, including targeting civilians and the Pakistan Army. The group, which is an umbrella organization of various militant groups, aims to overthrow the Pakistani government and impose Sharia law. In response, the Pakistan Army launched numerous military operations, on large-scale aimed at eliminating TTP and other terrorist groups from the region. The TTP also boasts several thousand fighters in Afghanistan, with strongholds on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Although Pakistani military actions, U.S. drone warfare, and factional infighting led to the TTP’s decline. The militant group has been experiencing a resurgence since the Afghan Taliban come into the helm of affairs in Afghanistan. 

The TTP, which represents an urgent national security challenge for Pakistan, has been infiltrating through the tribal areas for years. These armed group members have stayed, posing a significant danger to society, the state, and the security sector in the region. The fighters residing in Afghanistan constitute the next priority or group of concern. Ten militant groups opposed to the Pakistani state have merged with the TTP. Following these mergers, TTP violence has become more frequent, and this violent streak continues to accelerate.

The TTP has deep historical roots with the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP). The group is a by-product of al-Qaeda’s jihadi politics in Afghanistan and Pakistan after 9/11. The TTP still has covert links with al-Qaeda and has declared that it looks to Afghan Taliban leaders as its own while enjoying safe haven under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

To counter this terrorist threat, Pakistan has prioritized identifying, stopping, and prosecuting terrorists by mandating and empowering civilian law enforcement, administration and by mobilizing judicial bodies. As this needs to be the de facto state policy. First, any prisoners of this conflict must be treated appropriately with terror laws; Second, effects on the local population to be accounted for, and efforts to be made to shield them from displacement or disruption in livelihoods; Thirdly terrorists that lay down their arms but it must be accompanied with the application of the rule of law. 

Pakistan also vigilantly monitors, patrol and control its now-fenced border with clear rules of engagement established with border control authorities and governments on both sides. Enhance, develop and renew foot intelligence or human intelligence networks, building confidence with the local populations. Border posts need to be buttressed as they are likely to remain easy and primary targets for inflicting damage and non-crossing sections for attempting infiltration. Cross-border military operations, such as the airstrikes conducted earlier this year have had significant tactical applicability and much strategic value. The government has also intensified its efforts to secure the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major infrastructure project that has been targeted by TTP and other militant groups.

Pakistan has enhanced its security in sensitive installations across the country but particularly in newly merged districts and other adjoining areas. It must also enhance its foot intelligence or human intelligence networks by building confidence with local populations. This is necessary both to thwart potential recruitment of marginalized communities by TTP and provide actionable information and intelligence to pre-empt potential terrorist planning and attacks.

To counter the threat posed by TTP, Pakistan has adopted a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy that involves both military and non-military measures. The military operations carried out by the Pakistan Army have been largely successful in disrupting TTP’s network and reducing its capacity to carry out large-scale attacks. However, military operations alone are not enough to eliminate the group.

Pakistan has adopted a multi-pronged approach that includes intelligence gathering, law enforcement, and community outreach. The intelligence agencies need to work closely with local communities to gather information about TTP’s activities and identify potential threats. The law enforcement agencies are equipped with the necessary resources and training to prevent attacks and respond quickly to any incidents. The government also needs to invest in community outreach programs that promote peace and tolerance, particularly in areas that have been affected by terrorism.

Some other measures taken to counter terrorism in Pakistan include the establishment of military courts for the trial of terrorists, reviving the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), cutting the financial resources of terrorists, regularizing Madrassahs. Pakistan has also taken steps to improve its intelligence gathering and sharing with key partners, including Afghanistan’s neighbors and the US to better facilitate tracking, targeting, and elimination of key terror figures. Pakistan can also consider engaging with international partners to explore deeper joint intelligence work, as well as options for joint over-the-horizon kinetic operations and strikes that target key terrorist leaders and networks.

Internally, Pakistan identifies, stops, and prosecutes terrorists by mandating and empowering civilian law enforcement, administration, and judicial bodies. Additionally, they should vigilantly monitor, patrol, and control the now-fenced border, heighten security in sensitive installations across the country, enhance, develop and renew foot intelligence networks, and properly prosecute TTP prisoners as a tool for negotiation and a confidence-building measure.

Regionally, Pakistan should apply pressure on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to keep the TTP in check and restrict its movement across the border, continue to build regional consensus and pressure, and strengthen economic and cultural ties with Afghanistan. The aim should be to develop a policy of engagement that prioritizes diplomacy, support for civil society, and economic investment over force.

Political settlement or permanent ceasefire are not an option, given the group’s obduracy and violent attacks. A major shift has taken place to contain, manage, and respond to the demands of right-based movements and the public outcry against the TTP’s resurgence over the last years. Pakistan is also working on building trust and cooperation with local communities in areas affected by terrorism. This can be achieved through community engagement programs and strategic communication initiatives that foster greater trust and partnership between the police and communities. This can help prevent the recruitment of marginalized communities by TTP and provide actionable information and intelligence to pre-empt potential terrorist planning and attacks.

It is also important for Pakistan to address the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty, lack of education, and political instability. This can be achieved through economic development programs, education initiatives, and political reforms that address the grievances of marginalized communities and provide them with opportunities for social and economic advancement. A comprehensive approach that combines military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, and social measures is necessary to effectively counter the threat of terrorism in Pakistan.

In conclusion, Pakistan’s TTP problem has been decades in the making and has now lasted for fifteen years. It is clear that a political settlement or permanent ceasefire are not an option. Given past violent attacks despite so-called ceasefires, it is apparent that containment management and eventual cycle of negotiations need to be cataloged as ineffective and shelved as a serious option for Pakistan. TTP has deceptively positioned itself as a movement (tehrik), who are actually a band of thugs who falsely portray themselves as fighters of a cause.

Asma Khan Durrani is an expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defense and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47

Asma Khan Durrani

Asma Khan Durrani is an expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defense and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47

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