Cross-border cooperation: Ties that bind militants persist

[SEE:  Collaboration Between Pak Army, US Army and TTP Pakistani Taliban]

Cross-border cooperation: Ties that bind militants persist

Afghan Taliban deny they host, assist or work with Pakistani counterparts. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: As reports surface confirming the presence of senior Pakistani Taliban leaders hiding in and operating from within Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban vehemently deny that they are hosting, assisting or taking any assistance from their Pakistani counterparts.

A series of interviews revealed that two senior Pakistani Taliban leaders who fled to Afghanistan after military offensives, are now using their cross-border bases to launch attacks on Pakistani border posts.

Deputy chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Maulvi Faqir Muhammad is currently operating from Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, which borders Bajaur Agency where he fought Pakistani forces during 2008-9, an Afghan journalist Nematullah Karyab, who interviewed Faqir, told The Express Tribune.

Faqir is being hosted by Qari Zia-ur-Rahman, an infamous Afghan anti-government commander who was sheltered by Faqir in Bajaur for years, sources close to Afghan Taliban said.

Pakistani militants from  Mohmand Agency are also operating from Nari district in Kunar, Karyab added.

Meanwhile, Maulana Fazlullah, head of the Pakistani Taliban in Swat, is believed to be based in the remote and poverty-stricken Nuristan province with the local Afghan Taliban leader Sheikh Dost Muhammad.

Reports earlier surfaced that Pakistani Taliban and remnants of al Qaeda aided the Afghan Taliban when they attacked and briefly took control of Doad district in Nuristan province in May. Nuristan Governor Jamal-ud-Din Badar had claimed that he had intelligence reports that close to 500 Arabs, Chechen, Pakistani and Afghan fighters wanted to attack and take over the district.

‘No foreign assistance’

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected as ‘enemy propaganda’ the claim that the Pakistani Taliban secured areas in Kunar and Nuristan provinces and handed them over to the Afghan Taliban.

“Pakistani Taliban have not taken part in any of our operations,” Mujahid told The Express Tribune in a telephone conversation and through emails. Dismissing reports of foreign militants fighting with them, Mujahid said it is “part of the propaganda from the Afghan administration to blame the Mujahideen for seeking foreign help.”

He denied the possibility of Pakistani Taliban setting up bases in Afghan Taliban-controlled areas saying: “We cannot host guests in the current situation … there is no safe place in our country.”

Former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef also denied assistance of Pakistani Taliban to their Afghan counterparts.

“I do not believe that Afghan Taliban need any help from Pakistani Taliban,” Zaeef said in a reply to emailed questions by The Express Tribune.

“It is the weakness of the Afghan government to quickly point fingers at Pakistan for whatever happens in Afghanistan,” Zaeef said, adding that the resistance in Afghanistan was purely local.

Meanwhile, Afghan defence experts corroborate the liaison between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.“Jihadi elements in both countries helped each other during the 10-year resistance against the former Soviet forces and the same cooperation is continuing today,” former Afghan defence minister Shahnawaz Tanai told The Express Tribune on phone from Kabul. Tanai, who now leads the Afghanistan Peace Movement, said that Pakistani and Afghan forces cannot secure the whole border without the help of foreign forces.

He added that the Afghan government has no control in eastern parts of Kunar and that militants from both sides freely move in areas where the government has no control.

Published in The Express Tribune