Peace talks or Thunder strikes: Pakistan’s message to the TTP

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Peace talks or Thunder: Pakistan’s message to the TTP
Peace talks or Thunder: Pakistan’s message to the TTP

A tribal jirga of elders from the border regions of Pakistan yesterday visited Kabul to hold talks with senior leaders from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on the exact semantics of a peace plan that is currently under negotiation, and inform them of the decision that senior tribal elders on the Pakistani side have decided unanimously to expel all militancy from the region. These talks are some of the final steps in concluding the negotiating phase of the TTP’s request for safety from Pakistani military action, and in return the TTP will lay down arms and permanently leave the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions, bringing permanent peace to a region of Pakistan that has been embroiled in unnecessary and incessant conflict since the last two decades. We sincerely believe, after having the situation analyzed from multiple angles and collecting information from a number of official sources in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), TTP and other relevant quarters, that this has the potential to become a major victory for Pakistani national security, and one that will be of great benefit and vital national importance.

After the takeover of Afghanistan, it was known by both the TTP and Pakistani stakeholders that the steady stream of support in the form of logistics, intelligence, weaponry and finance that the TTP was receiving from hostile intelligence (mostly Indian intelligence) will be an unreliable and easily severable link. Thus, the TTP and the Pakistani Government entered into peace talks with one goal and one end-state only in mind: the complete dismantlement of the TTP as a militant terrorist organization, and TTP leaving the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions to settle somewhere else deep inside Afghanistan or even some other country. The TTP at the time in 2021 did not agree to these demands and the Pakistani side withdrew from the peace talks and continued military operations. In late 2021 it had been decided by all Pakistani stakeholders to plan and initiate a massive direct strike campaign as well as other hard kinetic options in order to decisively eliminate the TTP’s presence in the entirety of Afghanistan’s east. This was communicated to the IEA which requested some time to talk to the TTP in an attempt to get them onboard and agree to Pakistani demands. After several months had passed and no response was received, Pakistan decided to start the first set of strikes without informing the IEA prior. On the night of 15th April 2022, Pakistani aerial assets and other units preemptively took direct kinetic actions against multiple TTP terrorist holding and launching cells, according to various sources on both sides of the border, and inflicted extremely heavy casualties on the TTP’s rank and file. The IEA protested publicly but knew that after months of waiting, Pakistani patience was running out, and this realization was also reached throughout the TTP’s structure that also came to know that such action if continued for weeks would bring unsustainable casualties on the TTP side. Pakistan, in our opinion, presented the TTP and IEA with the option of either agreeing to an end to hostilities, dismantlement of the TTP as an organization and most importantly, leave the Pakistani border areas to settle elsewhere in Afghanistan, or face the full extent of direct Pakistani military firepower, without a place anymore to hide. Which is why perhaps, the TTP has agreed to the conditions they did not agree to in 2021.

It is a fact known by the TTP and the IEA, that Pakistan retains unhindered access to Afghan airspace, and will not hesitate to strike out the TTP’s terror camps at the time and place of our choosing. This much has been very clearly communicated to all parties. In the spirit of achieving peace without collateral damage, without bloodshed and the dislocation of innocent civilians from their homes on both side of the border, we appreciate the TTP’s offer of peace negotiations for cessation of all illegal terrorist activities, which will now happen only on Pakistani terms. The TTP witnessed a taste of Pakistani fire and fury in April 2022, with a promise of more to come if they go on the path they had chosen before. I also welcome the consequent genuine realization on the other side of the western border that now the Pakistani military will simply not allow anti-Pakistan terror activities to continue from Afghanistan’s border regions and is willing, able and ready to use the full extent of its force. I am sure that when the TTP was faced with a choice: come to the negotiating table and agree to Pakistani demands or face fire and blood the likes of which they have never seen, they chose to end a meaningless insurgency and join civil society in Afghanistan. There is no doubt in our mind, after reviewing all the facts, that Pakistan is negotiating from a clear and stated position of strength, and will not compromise on our security interests on the western border. The muddled attempts of some sections in the TTP at a face-saving narrative through fake negotiating points they are spreading online will not succeed. The TTP simply has to agree or face a decisive, immediate and complete annihilation. These terms start and end at cessation of terror activities and expulsion from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

After the negotiating phase has been completed, the parties involved will hand over the agreement to the parliament of Pakistan for debate and approval. Here all conditions and details will be made public for the people’s representatives, according to three persons with direct knowledge of the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the ongoing negotiations. We believe that apart from the massive economic benefits that peace will bring to the border regions, the operational duties of the Pakistan army may be diverted after this to more pressing tasks such as force modernization and building up the military for the modern battlefield and upcoming challenges.

We also believe that the people of these regions after suffering through years upon years of living in instability and being denied the opportunity to build themselves economically and through other avenues like tourism, finally deserve a lasting and permanent peace, and we as a nation should have the patience, foresight, will and resolve to give them that chance.

#WhiskeyPapa

#TeamPakistanStrategicForum

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