Dawn Editorial: Kabul visit

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ONE of the major reasons behind the recent spate of TTP violence is that besides having fighters and facilitators within Pakistan, the terrorist group has a comfortable refuge in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. In fact, as per recent reports, the regime in Kabul is unwilling to end its support for the TTP, with the banned group’s violent anti-Pakistan posture finding backers within the Afghan public as well as the Taliban elite. Yet efforts are being made by Pakistan to change this situation; a high-powered delegation visited Kabul on Wednesday to press home the point to the Taliban leadership. The delegation, which included the defence minister and the ISI chief, has apparently convinced the Taliban’s upper echelon to act against the banned TTP. Officials told this paper that the Pakistani side communicated this desire in unambiguous terms. According to a Foreign Office handout, both sides agreed to “effectively address the threat of terrorism”, including the TTP and IS-K threat.

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It is hoped that Afghanistan’s rulers deliver on their promises. The days ahead will prove whether the visit to Kabul has borne fruit, specifically if TTP-led terrorist activities in Pakistan decrease. There is, of course, good reason to be circumspect. After all, the Afghan Taliban and the TTP are from the same ideological gene pool. Moreover, Taliban supreme leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada reportedly does not harbour positive views about Pakistan’s political system, even though some of his deputies seek to maintain good relations with this country. It is the latter group that must prevail and convince the Taliban leadership that continuing to provide the TTP safe havens to attack Pakistan is not a good idea. Pakistan needs to keep up the pressure and remind the Taliban of the commitments recently made in Kabul. The fact is that counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan will have only limited impact if the TTP or other terrorists are able to freely move back and forth between this country and Afghanistan.

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Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2023

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