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How armed groups in Afghanistan are killing Pakistani forces using American weapons

Pakistani security personnel examine the blast site in southwest Pakistan's Quetta on Oct. 18, 2021 (Photo: Asad/Xinhua/IANS)

The nearly $7 billion worth of sophisticated weapons that the US left behind in Afghanistan in the wake of Taliban advances are now being used by militant groups to attack security forces in different parts of Pakistan.

Pakistan, which has been wrecked by political crisis and economic instability now faces the challenge of taking on battle-hardened militants in the possession of US weapons.

The South Asian country which was at the forefront of the US war on terror, and was simultaneously supporting the Taliban militants against a democratically-elected Afghan government, now faces its former ally as an opponent. After the Taliban took over the reins in Kabul, a resurgent Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) now wants an Islamic State to be established in Pakistan.

Challenging Pakistan’s sovereignty, the TTP has also announced its government with a full-fledged cabinet in Pakistan forming various ministries like defence, judiciary, intelligence and many others.

Nikkei Asia reports that in some of the attacks in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, the TTP used advanced weapons which were earlier in use by the US military or by Afghan forces. The Pakistani police has said that militants used high-tech night-warfare equipment such as thermal weapon sights in an attack in Peshawar killing three police officials.

The US Department of Defence (DoD) estimated that US-funded equipment valued at $7.12 billion was in the inventory of the Ashraf Ghani government when it collapsed in August 2021. DoD says that much of this equipment – military aircraft, ground vehicles, weapons – has been seized by the Taliban.

Similar equipment has been used in Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Lakki Marwat regions also. For Pakistan, it is not just the northern regions bordering Afghanistan which are under attack.

Former Pakistani interior minister Sheikh Rashid had claimed last year that the two deadly attacks by Baloch nationalist groups on the camps of the Frontier Corps (FC) in Balochistan in February 2022 were conducted using American weapons.

The attacks by Baloch rebels on the Noshki and the Panjgur camps of theFC were audacious not just in their ferocity but also in demoralising the Pakistani security personnel, many of whom feared working in Balochistan due to the relentless conflict.

Photographs and videos have appeared from time to time about the Taliban fighters trying out and practicing the abandoned US weapons. These include sniper rifles and weapons with thermal vision. In 2021 itself visuals of Taliban fighters toying with US weapons – helicopters, armoured vehicles and other weapons had spread on the social media.

For the Pakistani policemen on the line of duty, and also fire, such weapons put them at a disadvantage. Immediately after the suicide bombing in the Peshawar mosque that killed 101 persons, mostly policemen, the families and security personnel came out on the streets in an unprecedented show of anger.

Muhammad Feyyaz, a security expert and academic associated with the University of Management and Technology, Lahore, told Nikkei Asia that modern arms enhance the “TTP’s capability to undertake operations under all visibility conditions and give the terror group an edge over poorly equipped law enforcement agencies, which are struggling even to [fill ranks] and have a morale problem.”

Also Read: Mystery surrounds five bullet-riddled bodies found in Balochistan’s Panjgur district