By Zia Ur Rehman
KARACHI – Pakistani and Afghan Taliban members have teamed up to attack both countries’ border areas, killing innocent residents and aiming to disrupt security co-operation between Islamabad and Kabul, security analysts say.
Security forces patrol the rugged terrain on the Pakistani-Afghan border along Bins Shahi in Upper Dir July 20, after cross-border militant attacks in various parts of Upper and Lower Dir and in the Bajaur tribal areas of Pakistan. [Zahir Shah
More than a dozen cross-border terrorist incursions over the past four months in Pakistan’s border region have taken place, killing hundreds of civilians and security personnel, media reported.
Most of the attacks took place in the Dir region, from where Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, defeated by a military operation in Malakand Division, fled to Afghanistan. Other incursions have occurred in Bajaur Agency, Mohmand Agency and South Waziristan Agency.
Media reports from Afghanistan also suggest that the cross-border incursions run both ways, especially in the remote region of eastern Afghanistan. Afghan authorities, including the governors of Kunar and Nuristan, complain regularly about militant incursions from border areas.
The largest attack took place in Kamdish District of Nuristan July 5, where hundreds of militants, most of them alleged to be Pakistanis, crossed the border from an area near Dir, killing scores of people, Pajhwok Afghan News reported.
“Pakistani militant groups and their leaders including Maulana Fazlullah, Faqeer Muhammad, Abdul Wali and Hakeemullah, all have found sanctuaries in bordering region from where they are now conducting cross-border attacks into Pakistani territory,” Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said in a recent interview.
A joint commission has been formed in Peshawar that will decide how to deal with the cross-border violence and the militants, he said.
Pakistan has 147,000 troops deployed at 900 posts along the border who have repelled numerous attacks, killing dozens of militants, Abbas said.
A disruptive new Taliban strategy
The violence on both sides of the border is a new Taliban strategy intended to disrupt the relationship between the two countries and create mistrust at the highest levels, Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar-based security analyst, told Central Asia Online.
Though the security forces of both countries have begun operations to repel further attacks, the Islamabad and Kabul governments should deal collectively with the issue of cross-border militancy, Hussain added.
“It is now imperative to establish a co-ordination mechanism among Pakistan, Afghanistan and (international ) forces in Afghanistan with a view to developing a joint strategy to push back the present cross-border terrorism, as an alliance among the leaders of al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and other militant organisations has been formed,” he said.
“It could be an al-Qaeda or TTP strategy to sabotage the growing trust between Afghanistan and Pakistan and co-operation,” said Afghan journalist Abbas Daiyar.
Al-Qaeda wants to destroy the friendly relationship between Islamabad and Kabul by creating war hysteria and an atmosphere of mutual distrust, Daiyar told Central Asia Online.
Fazlullah and other TTP leaders are trying to regain a foothold in Malakand Division and tribal areas but will not succeed, said Brig. (ret.) Shoukat Qadir, a security expert based in Islamabad.
Security forces have shattered the basic network of the TTP in Swat, Bajaur and other tribal areas during military operations, forcing them to flee to Afghanistan, Qadir told Central Asia Online.
Residents of the border regions have formed peace committees to protect their areas and help push back militants, Haji Talimand Khan, an elder of Nustrat Darra in Upper Dir, said.
“Taliban militants recently released a graphic video showing (them) barbarously executing 18 innocent policemen, which has created much hatred … among the people of Malakand,” he said. All of the policemen were from Upper Dir and captured in a June 1 cross-border ambush in the Shaltalu area.
“The Taliban are enemies of the Pashtun people, and they have nothing to do with Islam,” Khan said.
Security forces have sealed the Pakistani-Afghan border in Malakand Division to stop militant attacks and cross-border infiltration, said Dr. Fakhr-e-Alam, commissioner of Malakand Division.
“Any militant infiltration of Pakistani territory will be considered a violation of international borders and will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.