The Pakistan military recoiled after Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense called on Pakistan to launched operations against “terrorist centers” throughout the country, including in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations branch said that Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman’s comments that Pakistan is a hub for terrorist activity “is unwarranted and runs counter to Pakistan Army’s efforts for better Pak-Afghan coordination and cooperation.”
“Pakistan Army looks forward for trust based security coordination and cooperation for fight against common enemy,” the ISPR statement continued. “Rhetoric of blames and suggestive allegations are agenda of forces working against order and peace in the region which should be avoided.”
The ISPR responded to comments made by Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri, who responded to Pakistan’s announcement of Khyber 4, an operation in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal agency.
“Military operations need to be launched in [sic] both sides of the Durand Line. Everyone understand [sic] the terrorist centers are located in Pakistan; Quetta Council, Peshawar Council and Miranshah Council that are Taliban groups,” Waziri said, according to ATN News. Waziri made the comments after ISPR spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor suggested that the Afghan military launch an operation on its side of the border to support Khyber 4.
The three councils mentioned by Waziri refer to Afghan Taliban’s command structure that is based inside Pakistan. The Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s main decision body, is based in the city of Quetta in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. Additionally, the Taliban operates four regional military councils in Quetta, Peshawar, Miramsha, and Gerdi Jangal.
The Taliban’s top leadership has been based inside Pakistan for decades, with the knowledge, approval and support of the military and its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The Taliban’s first two emirs died while in Pakistan. Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s founder and first emir, died in a Pakistani hospital near Quetta in April 2013. His successor, Mullah Mansour, was killed by the US in a drone strike in Baluchistan in May 2016. They and other senior, middle and lower level leaders have operated inside Pakistan without consequence.
In order to justify its policy of support to jihadist groups, Pakistani elites have attempted to distinguish between what are referred to as “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban.” The so-called “good Taliban” are groups that advance Pakistan’s foreign policy goals and do not threaten the state or wage war within its borders. “Good Taliban” and other groups deemed acceptable by the Pakistani establishment include the Afghan Taliban and its subgroups, the Haqqani Network, the Mullah Nazir Group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. These groups conduct numerous heinous acts of terrorism in the region, and are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and civilians, and yet are supported by the Pakistani state.
“Bad Taliban” are any jihadist faction that challenges the primacy of the Pakistani state. These groups include the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and the weakened Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Pakistani military has pursued these groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province with some success. However, when targeting these groups, the military has avoided pursuing groups such as the Haqqani Network, which provided shelter and support for the “bad Taliban.”
Pakistani officials have denied that it pursues a policy of strategic depth and differentiates between “good and bad Taliban,” or alternatively, have claimed it will no longer differentiate between the two. However, these claims are false. This is demonstrated in Pakistan’s continuing support for the aforementioned groups and others, as well as an unwillingness to round up leaders and key operatives.
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