Afghan Taliban support Pakistani branch, spokesman claims
The Afghan Taliban provide financial support to their "jihadi brothers" in Pakistan, the top spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan told a group of reporters. The Afghan Taliban are also sheltering Mullah Fazlullah, a top Pakistani Taliban commander.
Shahidullah Shahid, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan's senior spokesman, made the claim on Oct. 5 to the group of reporters who were invited to a compound in either North or South Waziristan, two Pakistani tribal agencies under the control of the Taliban, The Associated Press reported.
"The Afghan Taliban are our jihadi brothers," Shahid said. "In the beginning, we were helping them, but now they are strong enough and they don't need our help, but they are now supporting us financially."
Shahid also said that Mullah Fazlullah, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan's commander for Swat and the greater Malakand Division in northwestern Pakistan, is being given shelter in the northeastern Afghan province of Kunar. The Pakistani government has long criticized the Afghan government for the poor security situation in Kunar that has allowed Fazlullah shelter there. The situation has been so poor since US forces began pulling out of the remote province that before his death, Osama bin Laden recommended that al Qaeda leaders seeking to avoid US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas should move to Kunar.
Fazlullah commanded much of northwestern Pakistan between 2007 and 2009 before the Pakistani military launched an operation to regain control of the territory forfeited by signing peace deals with the Taliban commander. Fazlullah has been behind a string of attacks in Pakistan, including the assassination of the Pakistani Army's commander in Swat just three weeks ago.
Shahid's comments should come as no surprise. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has openly stated that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, is the Amir Al-Mumineen, or the Leader of the Faithful.
While the Afghan Taliban have denied that the Pakistani branch is under their command, the two groups routinely coordinate operations in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban often issue guidance to their Pakistani "jihadi brothers." In the past, top Afghan Taliban commanders have arrived in Pakistan to settle disputes between jihadist factions.
Commanders and fighters from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan are known to fight in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban routinely hold funerals for members who have been killed in fighting there. And the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led Coalition, has targeted, killed, and captured numerous Pakistani Taliban operatives during raids in Afghanistan.