Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
Participant in the War in North-West Pakistan, the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), and the Global War on Terrorism
Flag of Tehrik-i-Taliban.svg
Variant flag of the Islamic State.svg
Flags used by the Tehrik-i-Taliban[1]
ActiveDecember 2007 – present
IdeologyDeobandi fundamentalism[2][3][4][5]
HeadquartersAfghanistan[6][7][8]
Size
Allies
Opponent(s)
Battles and war(s)War in North-West PakistanWar in Afghanistan
Syrian Civil War
Designated as a terrorist organisation by
 Pakistan
 United States[18]
 Canada[19]
 United Kingdom[20]

Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP; Urdu: تحریک طالبان پاکستان‎, or the Taliban Movement in Pakistan), alternatively referred to as the Taliban, is a radical terrorist armed group which is an umbrella organization of various militant groups based along the Afghan–Pakistani border. Most Taliban groups in Pakistan coalesce under the TTP.[21] In December 2007 about 13 groups united under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud to form the Tehrik-i-Taliban.[22] Among the Tehrik-i-Taliban stated objectives are resistance against the Pakistani state.[22][23] TTP aim is to overthrow Government of Pakistan by waging terrorist campaign against the Pakistan armed forces and the state.[24] TTP depends on tribal belt along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to draw its recruits. TTP draws ideological guidance from al-Qaeda and maintain ties with al-Qaeda.[24]

Many of the militants belonging to TTP were killed as result of the military operations conducted by the Pakistan Armed Forces to annihilate all TTP infrastructure and support from Pakistan. However, some of the TTP militants escaped into Afghanistan through the ungoverned areas of Afghanistan-Pakistan border.[25] In Afghanistan some of the TTP militants joined Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province while others remained part of TTP.[26] As of 2019, There are around 3,000 to 4,000 TTP militants in Afghanistan according to United States Department of Defense report.[10]

Both TTP and Afghan Talibans are different groups and maintain different objectives. The Afghan Taliban operate against the international coalition and Afghan security forces in Afghanistan but are strictly opposed to targeting the Pakistani state.[27] The TTP in contrast has almost exclusively targeted elements of the Pakistani state although it took credit for the 2009 Camp Chapman attack and the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt.[28][29]

Mullah Fazlullah became the group's leader in late 2013. In the following year, TTP fragmented into at least four groups, with the defections said to have left the group in considerable disarray.[30] Following Fazlullah's death by an American drone strike in Kunar province, Afghanistan, the TTP appointed Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud as the group's new emir.[31]

History

Roots and development

Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan

The roots of the TTP as an organization began in 2002 when the Pakistani military conducted incursions into the tribal areas to originally combat foreign (Afghan, Arab and Central Asian) militants fleeing from the war in Afghanistan into the neighbouring tribal areas of Pakistan.[32][33] A 2004 article by the BBC explains:

The military offensive had been part of the overall war against al-Qaeda. ... Since the start of the operation, the [Pakistani] military authorities have firmly established that a large number of Uzbek, Chechen and Arab militants were in the area. ... It was in July 2002 that Pakistani troops, for the first time in 55 years, entered the Tirah Valley in Khyber tribal agency. Soon they were in Shawal valley of North Waziristan, and later in South Waziristan. ... This was made possible after long negotiations with various tribes, who reluctantly agreed to allow the military's presence on the assurance that it would bring in funds and development work. But once the military action started in South Waziristan a number of Waziri sub-tribes took it as an attempt to subjugate them. Attempts to persuade them into handing over the foreign militants failed, and with an apparently mishandling by the authorities, the security campaign against suspected al-Qaeda militants turned into an undeclared war between the Pakistani military and the rebel tribesmen.[33]

Many of the TTP's leaders are veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan and have supported the fight against the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force by providing soldiers, training, and logistics.[23] In 2004 various tribal groups, as explained above, that would later form the TTP, effectively established their authority in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by concurrently engaging in military attacks and negotiating with Islamabad. By this time, the militants had killed around 200 rival tribal elders in the region to consolidate control.[22] Several Pakistani analysts also cite the inception of U.S. missile strikes in the FATA as a catalyzing factor in the rise of tribal militancy in the area. More specifically they single out an October 2006 strike on a madrassah in Bajaur that was run by the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi as a turning point.[34]

In December 2007, the existence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan was officially announced under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud.[22] It was formed in response to Pakistan military operation against Al-Qaeda militants in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2007.[24]

On 25 August 2008, Pakistan banned the group, froze its bank accounts and assets, and barred it from media appearances. The government also announced that bounties would be placed on prominent leaders of the TTP.[35]

In late December 2008 and early January 2009, Mullah Omar sent a delegation, led by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mullah Abdullah Zakir, to persuade leading members of the TTP to put aside differences and aid the Afghan Taliban in combating the American presence in Afghanistan.[23] Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and Maulavi Nazir agreed in February and formed the Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen (SIM), also transliterated as Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahideen and translated into English as the Council of United Mujahedeen.[23][36][37] In a written statement circulated in a one-page Urdu-language pamphlet, the three affirmed that they would put aside differences to fight American-led forces and reasserted their allegiance to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden.[23][36] However, the SIM did not last very long and collapsed shortly after its announcement.[34][38]

Threats beyond Pakistan border

Qari Mehsud indicated in a video recorded in April 2010 the TTP would make cities in the United States a "main target" in response to U.S. drone attacks on TTP leaders.[39] The TTP claimed responsibility for the December 2009 suicide attack on CIA facilities in Camp Chapman in Afghanistan, as well as the attempted bombing in Times Square in May 2010.[28][29][40][41][42]

In July 2012, the TTP threatened to attack Myanmar in the wake of sectarian violence against Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan state. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah demanded the Pakistani government to sever relations with Myanmar and close down the Burmese embassy in Islamabad, and warned of attacks against Burmese interests if no action was taken. While the TTP has been conducting an insurgency in Pakistan, its ability to expand operations to other countries has been questioned. This was a rare occasion in which it warned of violence in another country.[43][44]

Leadership crisis

In August 2009, a missile strike from a suspected U.S. drone killed Baitullah Mehsud. The TTP soon held a shura to appoint his successor.[45] Government sources reported that fighting broke out during the shura between Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman. While Pakistani news channels reported that Hakimullah had been killed in the shooting, Interior Minister Rehman Malik could not confirm his death.[46] On 18 August, Pakistani security officials announced the capture of Maulvi Omar, chief spokesperson of the TTP. Omar, who had denied the death of Baitullah, retracted his previous statements and confirmed the leader's death in the missile strike. He also acknowledged turmoil among TTP leadership following the killing.[47]

After Omar's capture, Maulana Faqir Mohammed announced to the BBC that he would assume temporary leadership of the TTP and that Muslim Khan would serve as the organization's primary spokesperson. He also maintained that Baitullah had not been killed, but rather was in bad health. Faqir further elaborated that decisions over leadership of the umbrella group would only be made in consultation and consensus with a variety of different TTP leaders. "The congregation of Taliban leaders has 32 members and no important decision can be taken without their consultation," he told the BBC.[48][49] He reported to the AFP that both Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman had approved his appointment as temporary leader of the militant group.[50] Neither militant had publicly confirmed Faqir's statement, and analysts cited by Dawn News believed the assumption of leadership actually indicated a power struggle.[51]

Two days later Faqir Mohammed retracted his claims of temporary leadership and said that Hakimullah Mehsud had been selected leader of the TTP.[52] Faqir declared that the 42-member shura had also decided that Azam Tariq would serve as the TTP's primary spokesperson, rather than Muslim Khan.[53]

Under the leadership of Hakimullah, the TTP intensified its suicide campaign against the Pakistani state and against civilian (particularly Shia, Ahmedi and Sufi) targets.[34]

Designation as a terrorist organization

On 1 September 2010, the United States designated the TTP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and identified Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali ur-Rehman as specially designated global terrorists. The designation of the TTP as an FTO makes it a crime to provide support or to do business with the group and also allows the U.S. to freeze its assets. The US State Department also issued a $5 million reward for information on the two individuals' locations.[18][54]

In January 2011, the British government moved to classify the TTP as a banned terrorist organization under its Terrorism Act 2000.[20]

In July 2011, the Canadian government also added the TTP to its list of banned terrorist organizations.[19]

Internal splits

In February 2014, a group of TTP jihadists under the lead of Maulana Umar Qasmi broke away from the organisation to form the Ahrar-ul-Hind, in protest against the TTP's negotiations with the Pakistan government.[55]

In May 2014 the Mehsud faction of the TTP defected from the main group to form a breakaway unit called Tehrik-i-Taliban South Waziristan led by Khalid Mehsud. The breakaway group was unhappy with the various activities of the TTP, saying in a statement "We consider kidnapping for ransom, extortion, damage to public facilities and bombings to be un-Islamic. Tehreek-e-Taliban Mehsud group believes in stopping the oppressor from cruelty, and supporting the oppressed."[56] The Mehsuds were widely seen as the most important group in the TTP and their loss was regarded as a major blow.[57] In February 2017, the TTP announced that the Mehsud faction had rejoined the group, following the "defection of the rogue elements to the rival parties".[58]

In August 2014, hardline elements of the TTP from four of the seven tribal districts formed a separate group called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, led by the Mohmand Agency commander Omar Khalid Khorosani,[59] after disagreeing with Fazlullah's order to fight the Pakistani Army's Operation Zarb-e-Azb offensive in the Tribal Areas.[60] However, in March 2015, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar's spokesman announced that they were rejoining the TTP.[61] Some Uzbek and Arab fighters previously working with the TTP reportedly began leaving Pakistan to go to Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In the same month, Asmatullah Muawiya, the commander of the Punjabi Taliban, announced that his faction was ending their armed struggle against the Pakistani state.[62]

In October 2014, the TTP's spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, and the group's commanders in Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber tribal regions and Peshawar and Hangu Districts defected from the TTP and pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).[63]

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