Taliban again denies TTP presence in Afghanistan

The Taliban continues to claim that there are no foreign terror groups operating inside Afghanistan, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. The latest denial came this week when the Taliban was pressed about the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP), which shelters inside of Afghanistan while it wages a deadly insurgency inside Pakistan.

In response to Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif recent accusation that the Afghan “is not abiding by the Doha Agreement” and “terrorists who shed the blood of Pakistanis can find refuge on Afghan soil,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that Afghanistan “is not used against Pakistan and Pakistan is a brother and Muslim country.”

Asif referred to the defunct Doha Agreement, in which the U.S. agreed to leave Afghanistan in exchange for nebulous and unenforceable promises from the Taliban. Under the agreement, the Taliban said it would “prevent any group or individual, including Al Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.” [See LWJ report, Analysis: Taliban leader declares victory after U.S. agrees to withdrawal deal.]

Mujahid responded by saying that the Taliban “signed the Doha agreement with America,” implying that Pakistan was exempted, and perhaps is not a U.S. ally.

The Taliban, of course, has lied about not allowing Afghanistan to be used as a base for foreign terror groups. That was made fact on July 31, 2022, when the U.S. killed Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri in a safe house in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Zawahiri was sheltered by a subordinate of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s Interior Minister and one of the group’s two deputy emirs.

The Taliban has lied about Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan for the past two decades, claiming the group’s members left after the U.S. invasion in 2001. The Taliban has maintained this lie even as both Al Qaeda and the Taliban has admitted that top leaders of the group have been killed in the country since then.

In the past, the Taliban has also attempted to assure the U.S. that Al Qaeda leaders based in the country were no threat to the U.S. As the 9/11 Commission found, the Taliban told an American diplomat in April 1998 that it didn’t know where Osama bin Laden was and, in any event, he wasn’t a threat to the United States. Four months later, on Aug. 7, 1998, Al Qaeda operatives drove two truck bombs into the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. [See LWJ report, The Taliban promises China it won’t allow terrorists to use Afghanistan as launching pad.]

The TTP’s presence in Afghanistan is undeniable. Thousands of TTP fighters maneuver in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and the group played a key role in the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in the summer of 2021. In a 2020 video released by the TTP that celebrated its second emir, Hakeemullah Mehsud, the TTP admitted that both he and his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, fought alongside the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. The video stated that TTP’s men fought alongside the Afghan Taliban in Khost, Paktika, Paktia, Nangarhar, and Helmand.

In the mid-2000s, there were numerous reports of bodies of slain Pakistani Taliban fighters being brought back from Afghanistan to be buried. Faqir Mohammad, the former deputy emir of the TTP, was captured in Afghanistan in 2013 and freed after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in Aug. 2021. The U.S. military struck a TTP training camp in eastern Afghanistan in 2018. After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban invited the TTP and the Pakistani government to Kabul to broker a ceasefire.

The ties between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban are also undeniable. The TTP’s emir has sworn allegiance to the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Noor Wali Mehsud, the emir of the TTP, has said that his group “is a branch of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” 

The latest report on Afghanistan by the United Nations Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, which was released on June 9, noted that Afghan Taliban is directly sheltering, supporting, and training the TTP with the help of Al Qaeda. TTP fighters are training at a camp in Kunar province run by Al Qaeda. The UN estimated that more than 4,000 TTP fighters, commanders and leaders are sheltering in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban continues to lie about TTP’s presence in an effort to obscure its relations with foreign terror groups, even if there is evidence to the contrary in plain sight.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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