Daud Khattak, Senior Editor with RFE/RL's Pakistani Service, Radio Mashaal discusses the complicated relationship between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban for the "Combating Terrorism Center," an academic institution at the U.S Military Academy.
The Complicated Relationship Between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban
Daud Khattak | Combating Terrorism Center
Feb 16, 2012
In late 2011, the outlook for negotiations between the United States and the Afghan Taliban began to improve. Various reports suggested that the Afghan Taliban were close to establishing a liaison office in Doha, Qatar, from where the group could negotiate with those actors involved in the Afghanistan war. At the same time that the initiative gained steam, however, the Pakistani Taliban purportedly released a dramatic statement that it would cease attacks on Pakistani targets, join forces with the Afghan Taliban and focus all of its insurgent activity on U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. Yet hours after that statement was released, a spokesman for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) rejected reports of an agreement to end attacks on Pakistani troops. Instead, several spectacular attacks were staged in the following days, including the brutal killing of 10 Pakistani Frontier Constabulary soldiers. This series of events just added to the confusion inherent in the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
This article will provide clarity on the composition of the Pakistani Taliban, identifying its various factions. It will also shed light on the relationship between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. The article concludes with a discussion of both the short- and long-term implications of the purported U.S.-Taliban peace talks on Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban: A United Force?
Most of the Pakistani Taliban factions operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan have sanctuaries in Pakistan’s North and South Waziristan, located in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Although nearly half of the factions are gathered under the TTP umbrella, some are loosely affiliated with the group while others have little or no association. Even the TTP itself, once united under its leader Baitullah Mehsud, is fragmented and its existing leadership regularly disagrees over control of territory.
Various Pakistani Taliban leaders also do not share the same war strategy. For example, the Pakistani Taliban faction in Bajaur Agency, led by Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, did not protest when Pakistan’s military launched a series of operations against Pakistani Taliban factions in South Waziristan Agency in October 2009. Rather, Faqir Muhammad announced that he was holding peace talks with the Pakistani government in December. Such statements regularly create confusion over the true intentions of the Pakistani Taliban. In this particular case, analysts were especially perplexed because Faqir Muhammad is, at least on paper, the deputy head of the TTP—the group that was engaged with Pakistan’s military in South Waziristan at the time. In fact, when Faqir Muhammad announced the peace agreement, other TTP leaders rejected his statement, saying that it only reflected his “personal” opinion. The spokesman of the TTP went further, arguing that Faqir had nothing to do with the organization’s central leadership.