To date, only one credible example that highlights Tehreek-e-Taliban’s global ambitions exists: the bombing plot of Barcelona subway system. In January 2008, 12 Pakistanis and two Indians were arrested in Barcelona, Spain. Ten detainees were indicted – with involvement in a conspiracy to carry out suicide attacks in the subway system. Later, a TTP spokesman, Maulvi Omar, acknowledged in a video, “The one in Barcelona was conducted by 12 of our men. They were under pledge to Baitullah Mehsud, and TTP has already claimed responsibility because of Spain’s military presence in Afghanistan.”
A Tissue of Lies
Public relations are a significant aspect of any terror related activity. The terrorists aim to impact public perceptions and influence decision making on a grand scale; widespread induction of ‘Terreur’ compounds the illicit activities by extremist groups. A social image, whether good or bad, is created through these PR tools.
Tehreek-e-Taliban’s claims of sending its fighters for the Syrian conflict is a smokescreen, which has been conveniently used to cloud the ‘savage’ image of the organization amongst majority Muslims of the Sunni sect. The banned organization is adjusting its image due to the internal disputes it has mired itself in. Distrust is prevalent, and many experienced commanders are wary of the decisions and actions taken by the central leadership. The genuine resistance of Afghan militants against the usurper forces, as publicly opined by the masses, was being ill-shadowed due to the Pakistani Taliban’s miscreance.
An increasingly confused White House is doling the ‘Zero Option’ card to tame Karzai into signing a strategic agreement with the United States. If the ‘Zero Option’ gets implemented, this policy would isolate Tehreek-e-Taliban from its foreign backers; making the fighters openly susceptible to Pakistan army and Afghan Taliban onslaught on both sides of the border. To sustain post US withdrawal from Afghanistan, TTP is projecting itself as a friendly force for those wroth to Bashar al-Assad’s crimes: primarily the Sunni Muslims.
It is adopting a tone which sounds good to an international audience, including potential donors. Striking rapport with those sympathetic towards the Syrian cause could result in the establishment of vital supply lines with various Islamist networks on the international and local level. The chunks of funds previously being funneled to various Al-Qaeda affiliated groups can now be diverted towards TTP militants.
But still, this Syrian posture has not been officially adopted by the banned organization. Their chief spokesperson, Shahidullah Shahid, is mum about the informal news reports that have recently emanated in media on TTP’s Syria connection, which is quite an uncommon practice as TTP gives its statements on most of the topics. Moreover, the security agencies have also not confirmed any discernible movement of Pakistani militants to Syria up till now.
As stated earlier, foreign elements associated with Al-Qaeda are known to break bread with Tehreek-e-Taliban. It cannot be ruled out that these foreigners – mainly of Uzbek and Arab ethnicities, taking refuge in the AF-Pak border region – have been heading to Syria informally. The animosity between the rebel factions is escalating: infighting amongst the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Al-Qaeda affiliated factions appears to be on the rise, following the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) targeting of Kamal Hamami, a commander associated with the Supreme Military Council of FSA. Consistent with the developments that have taken place, it is more likely that Al-Qaeda militants are leaving for Syria to cover the ‘numerical’ shortage of the Islamist fighting force.
It needs to be underscored that TTP militants are gearing up to put a violent show of resistance against the Pakistani state. A video recently released by their media wing reflects this, in which the Pakistani ‘Murtadeen’ (Apostates – a term they use for the general Pakistani public) are threatened of dire consequences by Ghazwan Swati, the TTP Chitral Commander.