Recent terror attacks have brought renewed scrutiny to a Pakistan-based Taliban branch. The group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb blast in northwestern Pakistan in August that targeted members of a peace committee aiding the Pakistani government. It also claimed responsibility for an attack that killed one Pakistani soldier in the North Waziristan region, near the border with Afghanistan, in September.
TTP is a branch of the Pakistani Taliban founded in 2007. Unlike the Afghani Taliban, which primarily targets U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the group primarily targets Pakistani security forces. Its goals are to establish Shariah (Islamic law) in Pakistan, combat U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and defend against Pakistani security forces. Similar to its Afghani counterpart, the ultimate goal of TTP is to overthrow the Pakistani government and establish a fundamentalist Islamic regime.
TTP is less an autonomous group and more a coalition of various tribes with conflicting interests and priorities but similar overarching goals. Although the main goals as listed above are shared goals, their prioritization and implementation depends on the commander. For instance, some commanders may prioritize the establishment of Shariah in Pakistan, while others may aim for a global caliphate that liberates all Muslims. Additionally, inter-tribe rivalries can be reflected in operation; assassinations of rival tribesmen and deep distrust of members from rival tribes have been a common occurrence.
The group’s leader, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, also known as Abu Mansoor Asim, was appointed in mid-2018 after the death of its previous leader, Mullah Fazlullah, in a U.S. drone strike in June of that year. He first joined jihadist movements in Afghanistan during Taliban control of the country and hosted al-Qaeda and other militants in Pakistan after the Taliban’s ousting in December 2001. Mehsud is not only a seasoned jihadi leader but also an ideologue; he has published several books while fighting for different militant organizations over the years. In September 2019, he was designated by the U.S. Department of State as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), which imposed sanctions and froze any U.S.-based assets.
TTP uses a variety of recruiting tactics beyond financial compensation. The group is particularly known for targeting tribes that have unfriendly relations with the Pakistani government. As Pakistan attempts to build bridges with tribes that make up portions of TTP membership, the group has recruited heavily from rival tribes; for example, Mehsud tribe recruitment is rising as the government builds bridges with the rival Waziri tribe. The group has also used civilian deaths to drive recruitment, with TTP militants visiting refugee camps and recruiting people seeking revenge for relatives killed in Pakistani military operations. Recruitment in refugee camps is also effective, with unsanitary conditions and government ineffectiveness giving TTP a rich source of fresh recruits who are disenchanted with the Pakistani government.
The recent attacks on peace envoys and Pakistani military personnel show that the group is not committed to a peaceful resolution of conflict in the region. On the contrary, TTP believes its goals can only be achieved through the use of force. Although the group faces tribal infighting, it is united in obstructing U.S. and Pakistani diplomatic and military goals. Indeed, as long as military operations continue in Afghanistan and Pakistan, TTP will continue to act as an obstacle to ultimate peace and security in the region.
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