Fallback of TTP: Can We Make Some Long Term Policies Now?

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Washington’s “zero option” policy for US troops deployment in Afghanistan has been put into force. As Hamid Karzai flew in Washington for talks with President Obama last week, the evocation of US officials revealed that the US administration is not keen to continue its troop’s presence in Afghanistan post 2014. In fact;

It seems that US is not even able to sum up its created mess with a proper plan. We have heard of different options since we started hearing of the pulling out of troops. At first it was 20,000 soldiers to be kept in Afghanistan then it became 12000, then 6000, then 3000 and now the “Zero Option”, telling us a story of distress, frustration and disconnection between the Pentagon and the White house policy makers, not knowing where to head and what to present as a best available option. The draw down plan has not yet been revealed completely, but the official word is that from March 2013 onwards, US military would cease to be combat-functional and would solely focus on training Afghan soldiers. Currently there are around 68,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan to carry on combat operations against Taliban insurgents.

The 11 years obsession of United States with Afghanistan is marred with series of events that have scarred US faith to bring in any change in Afghanistan. The US has ended up endorsing a beleaguered government, and the behemoth of Taliban is still looming undeterred after an intense war that lasted more than a decade. The South Asian region has become more volatile, with the emergence of more non-state actors threatening the national integrity of various countries. America in itself is experiencing increased economic disparity due to rising debt crisis, and a perpetual budgetary allocation for Afghanistan. The war weariness that took the lives of more than 2000 soldiers through asymmetric skirmishes and Green on Blue attacks has resulted in psychological problems for the soldiers. Looking for safe exit amidst all this havoc is what US aims at.

Pakistan’s role in US safe exit:

“Reconciliation also requires constructive support from across the region including Pakistan. We welcome recent steps that have been taken in that regard. We look for more tangible steps because a stable and secure Afghanistan is in the interest of not only the Afghan people and the United States but the entire region”, said Obama in a recent statement. 

The acceptance of Pakistan as a negotiating force in Afghanistan came at the cost of India being sidelined in the peace process. As a secondary player in Afghanistan India with its millions of dollars investment stuck, has the most to lose from this deal. In lieu of the prominence that it should have been accolade with, India was considered as a “lynchpin” by US. On the behest of Pakistan, being a reconciliatory force on the table, US had to accede to its wishes; that all the forces that are detrimental to Pakistan’s sovereignty should be kept off.

The obvious goal of this process is to give peace and stability to Afghanistan and a safe withdrawal of US troops, which would emerge in the form of Pakistan mediating with Taliban in a neutral country.

Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan after US pullout:

The fault line that was created in Pakistan in the form of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is losing its stronghold gradually. US’s sudden withdrawal plan has shaken the TTP leadership from the stupor; they were once advancing their nefarious designs from. The “Soft Image” of Pakistan has restarted fostering in the international community, as now the people, organizations and religious scholars, all are retaliating. Growing opposition from the civil society is shaking the grounds beneath TTP followers, and their structured edifice of fear is crumbling.

The change in Pakistan military doctrine also highlights the growing frustration of the armed forces with these funded proxies. In response TTP is blindly attacking civilians, getting more and more exposed. Recent killing of a Sindh Provincial Assembly member Syed Manzar Imam is one such example.

Pakistan Army until the change of its military doctrine was countering the TTP threat, through Mullah Nazir, who was widely considered as a pro Pakistani tribal leader, whom the TTP and its guardians, the Mehsud tribe considered as a hindrance in promoting their aims. As it is also propagated that Mullah Nazir’s battle field was across the western border, therefore, he wasn’t able to keep effective checks on TTP activities. Nazir’s tribe connection with the outside world was also through a road that passed from the Mehsud’s area.Pakistan Army engineered an alternate route for him, for the diminution of his reliance on Mehsud’s.

That’s when the United States made a serious blunder.

A suicide attack was orchestrated through Mehsud’s to terminate Mullah Nazir. The commander survived, but was critically injured. A warning was issued for Mehsud’s clan to leave their area, responding to which the United States misadventure ended the tale of Mullah Nazir in a drone strike.

This raised many questions; proxies are never openly supported by any country, but in such a case, when Mehsud’s were pushed by Nazirs, US stuck at the wrong end, perhaps exposing many fault lines within themselves. It is now considered that their drone strike would pave the way for the proxy to control North Waziristan completely. It was a wrong calculation, which ended up making Nazir’s faction more furious and threatening. Salahudeen Ayubi, a former commander of Militants in Kashmir, succeeded Mullah Nazir. He repelled Mehsud’s even more heatedly. Hafiz Gul Bahadur is another anti Mehsud, thus anti-TTP figure in the area, has joined hands with the Nazirs. In the end it was Ismatullah Moavia notoriously famed in the Kashmir resistance movement, who later on joined TTP, sensed the looming threat to their very existence, in this fast changing scenario. So, it is known to some closed circles that it is Ismatullah Moavia, who convinced TTP’s top Brass to offer a peace truce to the Pakistani government, eventually making TTP back track on its own ambitions.

The fault line that was created to destabilize Pakistan by the nurturer’s agencies would not be able to sustain in long term. Some analysts are of the opinion that the US drone strike on Mullah Nazir has resulted in the creation of another proxy force, which would be focusing on Indian borders in future.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is left with two options to follow on. They can either join Afghan Taliban and mix up in their lines or seek asylum with US forces like Mullah Fazalullah of Swat faction and never come back.

Unlike Fazalullah who has been reportedly entertained as a guest by the governor of the Afghan province of Kunar, and might be flown in to reside as a resident in Switzerland in near future, the Central Shura of TTP is wise enough to join hands with Afghani Talibans. The faltering influence on the society, coupled with US withdrawal and a change in Pakistan’s military doctrine has lead TTP to rethink about its past atrocities.

The suspicions were confirmed, as on 12th January, a leaflet was issued by Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud who ordered the TTP factions to stop engaging with Pakistan army and concentrate attacks in Afghanistan instead.

“O Mujahideen brothers! As you know, the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid are engaged in jihad against the crusaders and infidels, and are supporters of each other’s in the ongoing holy war,” the pamphlet said.

As their designs are failing, they are also trying to seek guarantees from the Army. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesman of TTP in a recent talk said, “Our central Shura (council) has unanimously decided to ask for the Army’s guarantee for any talks with the government,” “Although we have not yet received any response to our dialogue offer, our leadership still hopes for a positive response,”

A second offer for truce in a week confirms that TTP fears Pakistan Army’s change of hearts. The idea of dealing with the military doctrine that focuses on dealing with internal threats has completely balked them. On conditions of anonymity, the view of one senior government official was sought regarding TTP offer.

“They are a bunch of criminals. This is not the Afghan Taliban. They are not open to talks,” said one senior government official who called the Pakistani Taliban’s offer “preposterous”.

“No one can take such an offer or terms seriously. The TTP is not a proper entity, certainly not one any government can negotiate with.”

Conclusion:

The United States withdrawal plans and alienation of India from the future Afghan government indicates that the handlers are not keen on being supportive of their proxies. The underlying economic and political issues of both the countries would also act as a deterrent to any misadventure from their side in coming years.

The fault line that was created years back would be effectively sealed for once. In near future the TTP might disintegrate, and it may result into many splinter groups, a glimpse of which we are now observing in the attacks on civilians in the name of LeJ and TTP. This effect will probably take some time to clean up the mess created by TTP and their Kharjite ideology. But, as the supply line of money and resources on which the major outfit was surviving is choking up; it can be safely assumed that majority of their fighters would either join the ranks of Salahudeen Ayubi, and thus a rehab process for de-radicalization of these people can be taken into consideration with the help of the elders of tribal region. Many organization are working on these lines already, be it religious NGOs or people from different Public and Private sectors. It’s time we uproot this menace from Pakistan once and for all by supporting those who are committed to do so.

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Talha Ibrahim - is a certified conflict analyst of United States Institute of Peace.

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