Pakistan Under Siege: Fallout From The Doha Agreement – OpEd


The US-Taliban deal, signed in February 2020, was supposed to end the 20-year war in Afghanistan and bring peace and stability to the region. But instead of achieving its goals, the deal has unleashed a wave of violence and instability that has spilled over into neighboring Pakistan.

Pakistan, which shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan, has been hit by a series of deadly attacks by militant groups that are allied with the Taliban. These groups, namely the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K), have exploited the power vacuum created by the US withdrawal and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan to launch their own campaigns of terror against the Pakistani state and society.

The deal stipulated that the US and its allies would withdraw all their troops and contractors from Afghanistan within 14 months, subject to the Taliban’s compliance with counter-terrorism commitments. The Taliban, in turn, would prevent any group or individual, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State, from using Afghan soil to threaten the security of the US and its allies. The deal also envisaged the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan security forces personnel as a confidence-building measure, and the start of intra-Afghan negotiations by March 10, 2020. The talks were expected to address the future political roadmap of Afghanistan and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.

However, the implementation of the deal faced several challenges and delays, as violence escalated in Afghanistan and the Taliban took over most of the country by force in August 2021. The US completed its withdrawal on August 30, 2021, leaving behind a humanitarian crisis and an uncertain political situation.

Pakistan has been affected by the fallout of the deal as it shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan. Pakistan has been accused of supporting the Taliban, but in reality it has faced most attacks from an offshoot group called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which seeks to overthrow the Pakistani government and impose its own version of Islamic law.

The TTP has intensified its attacks in Pakistan since November 2021, when it walked out of a ceasefire with the Pakistani government. According to data compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based research organization, the TTP carried out more than 100 attacks in 2022, killing more than 500 people, mostly security personnel.

Pakistan has been hit by a series of deadly attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K), two militant groups that are allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan. One of the most devastating attacks occurred in February 2023, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a mosque located in a high-security police compound in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The blast killed at least 100 people, mostly police officers, and wounded more than 200 others. 

The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeting the police for their role in fighting the group. A month earlier, in January 2023, a group of armed men ambushed a military convoy in North Waziristan, a tribal district bordering Afghanistan. The attackers opened fire on the vehicles, killing six soldiers and injuring several others. It also claimed responsibility for this attack, saying it was in retaliation for the killing of one of its commanders by the Pakistani army. In December 2022, another attack by the TTP took place in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. A bomb exploded at a crowded market, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens more. The TTP said it was behind the attack, saying it was targeting the Shia Hazara community, which it considers heretical.

The TTP is not the only group that has been carrying out attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Another branch of the extremist group Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K), which is also allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan, has also been active in the region. In October 2021, one of its attacks killed at least 40 people and wounded more than 100 others. A suicide bomber blew himself up at a mosque in Kurram district, another tribal area near the Afghan border. 

The IS-K claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeting members of a pro-government militia that had fought against the group. In September 2021, another attack by the IS-K killed three soldiers and injured two others. A gunman opened fire at a checkpoint manned by paramilitary soldiers in Khyber district, another tribal area adjacent to Afghanistan. It also claimed responsibility for this attack, saying it was avenging the death of its fighters. In August 2021, a roadside bomb went off near a school in Bajaur district, yet another tribal area bordering Afghanistan. The blast killed four children and injured six others. 

 The deal has emboldened and empowered militant groups that are hostile to Pakistan and have vowed to overthrow its government and impose their own version of Islamic law. These groups have carried out numerous attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas, killing hundreds of people, mostly security personnel, and injuring many more. The Pakistani government and army have been struggling to contain the threat posed by these groups, which have also forged links with other extremist outfits in the region. The US-Taliban deal has not only failed to bring peace to Afghanistan, but has also jeopardized Pakistan’s security and stability. Pakistan needs to rethink its strategy and policy towards Afghanistan and its militant groups, and seek regional and international cooperation to counter this menace. Otherwise, it risks becoming a victim of its own neighbor’s turmoil.

Lariab Khan

Lariab Khan is a graduate of strategic studies and a lecturer at the University of Peshawar.

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