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Pakistan warns Taliban of surgical strikes inside Afghanistan unless its affiliate stops cross-border attacks

Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf with Deputy PM Afghanistan Mullah Abdus Salam Hanafi (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@Natsecjeff)

Pakistan has warned the Taliban government in Afghanistan that it will strike inside Afghanistan unless its affiliate,   the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), stops cross-border attacks. This was conveyed to the top leadership of the Taliban by Moeed Yusuf, the National Security Advisor of the Imran Khan government during his visit to Kabul on Sunday. Yusuf accused the Taliban of sheltering all TTP top militants who are on Pakistan’s most wanted list.

According to Pakistan and Afghanistan watchers, Yusuf also conveyed to the Pashtun militant group that the TTP leaders have allowed the Baloch militants to make their hideouts near Kandahar and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan.

“Since the Pakistani forces have stepped up their offensives against the Baloch and TTP militants, they have taken refuge across the Durand Line in Afghanistan. When the Taliban returned to power in August last year, Pakistan handed over a list of wanted people not just from the TTP but also the Baloch militants,” says one Pakistani watcher quoting official sources.

In response, the Taliban told Yusuf  that they have eliminated all hideouts of militants but they refused to hand over any TTP leader to Pakistan. They once again retreated that Afghan soil would not be allowed to be used again by anyone against the neighbouring countries including Pakistan.

“They (Taliban) are ready to facilitate and mediate but are not going to take action against the TTP,” Express Tribune quoted one Pakistani official as saying.

During his two-day visit, the Pakistani NSA met a few top Taliban ministers including Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Foreign Minister Amir Muttaqi. The Pakistani Foreign office said that the visit had yielded significant progress in terms of economic cooperation and social sector support,  but did not comment either on the Duran line dispute or the TTP.

According to Afghan sources, the Taliban rejected the fencing on the Durand Line as it does not acknowledge it as an international demarcation. But it agreed with Pakistan’s proposal to create a National Level Coordination Mechanism to strengthen facilitation at Border Crossing Points.

But the issue of TTP and other such groups remains a point of concern.

“The important issue for Pakistan is that the attacks by the Pakistani Taliban or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have surged, when they (Pakistani Taliban) denied the ceasefire extension, and now the attacks have increased. Pakistan says it expects the Afghan government to prevent the TTP but the Afghan government denies any threat from Afghan soil toward Pakistan,” said Tahir Khan, a Pakistani journalist.

According to a Pakistani expert, the Taliban regime has adopted the same strategy on the TTP as Pakistan employed over the years with the Americans on the Afghan Taliban.

Yusuf was the third senior Pakistan official visiting Afghanistan since the Taliban captured power. According to Afghan experts, there was a total disconnect between the US educated  Pakistani National Security Advisor and the Taliban leaders. A week ago, the Pak NSA had to postpone his visit due to the hostile protests in Kabul against Pakistan. This time, he reached Kabul unannounced. Taliban representatives, knowing the sentiments in Afghanistan, called the visit useless in TV talk shows, accusing Pakistan of sending IS fighters to Afghanistan. They also accused Pakistan of interfering in Afghanistan’s internal matters.

Also Read: Desperate Pakistan threatens Taliban– if you want recognition cage the TTP militants first