Articles by Amir Mir

TTP brokering peace between Daesh and Afghan Taliban

ISLAMABAD: (The News) In a disturbing development for Pakistani and Afghan security agencies, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has constituted a reconciliation council to mediate between Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi-led Islamic State (Daesh) and Mullah Mohammad Omar-led Afghan Taliban, mainly to broker a ceasefire between both the militant groups that are locked in an intense battle for dominance in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The peace initiative has been launched by Jamaatul Ahraar (JuA) group of the TTP led by Nangarhar based Commander Omar Khalid Khorasani who was responsible for beheading around two dozen Jawans of the Frontier Corps last year.

The two groups have clashed in the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Helmand and Farah throughout the year. Having already captured 22 districts of the Nangarhar province, the Islamic State currently controls a quarter of the strategically important Afghan province bordering Pakistan which was a stronghold of the Afghan Taliban only a few months ago. As the Afghan Taliban sat face to face with some high ranking officials of the Kabul government in Murree, the CIA launched a series of drone strikes in Nangarhar over the past two weeks, targeting the IS leadership and killing several of them, including their central spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

In a major development, while confirming the death of Shahidullah Shahid in a drone attack in the Nangarhar province last week, Jamaatul Ahraar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan vowed to avenge his killing in a statement and called for the Islamic State and the Afghan Taliban to reconcile. Ehsanullah Ehsan, who had been the TTP spokesman in the past before being replaced by Shahidullah Shahid, said that the Daesh spokesman (Shahid) was martyred in the Achin district of Nangarhar, adding that his death would be avenged from the Americans as well as its allies.

Ehsan’s statement is significant given the fact that the TTP spokesman had rejected in May this year Baghdadi’s self-professed caliphate in Iraq and Syria and praised the ameer of Afghan Taliban Mullah Mohammad Omar, Osama bin Laden and his successor – al-Qaeda chief Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri.

The TTP’s act was described as a counter attack as Baghdadi had first severely criticised Mullah Omar. The tug of war to clinch the so-called title of Ameerul Momineen or the leader of the faithful was actually initiated by Baghdadi in June 2014 when he had appointed himself as the Caliph of the Islamic State, a few months after he was expelled by Zawahiri as the chief of the Iraqi chapter of al-Qaeda, for disobeying him and refusing to stop the killing of innocent civilians. Baghdadi further insisted that pledging allegiance to his caliphate was a religious obligation of all the Muslims across the globe. His announcement had created ripples in the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban circles which viewed it as an attempt to clinch the position of the Ameerul Momineen from Mullah Omar. Dr Zawahiri had subsequently thrown his weight behind the ameer of the Afghan Taliban by renewing al-Qaeda’s oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar and recognizing him as the ameer, while reminding that Osama bin Laden too had pledged allegiance to Omar.

However, amid rising drone attacks in the Pak-Afghan border belt and the unconfirmed reports of the death of the ameer of Daesh’s Pakistan and Afghanistan chapter, Hafiz Saeed Khan, TTP’s Ehsanullah Ehsan has called upon the commanders of the Islamic State and the Afghan Taliban to mend their “huge rift” in the larger interest of the jehadi movement in the region. Ehsanullah has further claimed that a jirga or council has been formed by the TTP to mediate between the two feuding parties. “Using this moment, we request all the militant groups to resolve their differences and conflicts under Sharia so that the enemy doesn’t overcome us,” Ehsan further stated. “I would like to clarify that we have already formed a jirga to end the conflict between Islamic Emirate [Afghan Taliban] and the Islamic State. Therefore, we request both the sides to try to end their disputes.”

Analysts believe the Jamaatul Ahraar faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is ideally placed to play the role of a mediator between the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State. The Ahraar split with the TTP last year due to a leadership dispute but reunited with its parent group after a year of being apart. According to the Long War Journal, the liaison between the Afghan Taliban, which has dominated the jehad in Afghanistan, and the Islamic State has been acrimonious since the latter was officially formed this year. Upon the formation of Khorasan chapter of the Islamic State (mainly consisting of Pakistan and Afghanistan), Daesh spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani issued a veiled threat to the Taliban factions, both Afghan and Pakistani, which had opposed the creation of the Khorasan province and the Islamic State.

On June 20, this year, the Afghan Taliban broke their silence over the emergence of the Daesh in the country, with Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the second most powerful man in the Taliban hierarchy after Mullah Mohammad Omar, warning the IS ameer Baghdadi against possible bloodshed if those expelled by the Taliban over various crimes tried to create differences in jehadi ranks in the guise of the Daesh fighters. The Taliban’s first public warning to the IS came following clashes in Nangarhar province where the IS militants beheaded at least a dozen Taliban fighters recently. The Taliban had earlier played down the presence of IS in Afghanistan even when senior leader Abdul Rauf Khadim, a former Guantanamo detainee, switched loyalties and pledged allegiance to Baghdadi earlier this year. Khadim was killed in a US drone strike just days after he was appointed the IS No. 2 for Khorasan chapter of Daesh. Under these circumstances, the TTP Jamaatul Ahraar’s initiative for a ceasefire between the Afghan Taliban and the IS leadership is significant, although it is still unclear if these attempts will have any impact.

The TTP Jamaatul Ahraar is the same Taliban group which had created havoc in Lahore by carrying out some deadly suicide bombings in the provincial metropolis of Punjab in the recent past with the help of its covert support system, killing 85 innocent people. JuA had claimed responsibility for the March 15, 2015 twin suicide bombings, targeting two churches which killed 15 people in the Yuhanna Abad area of Lahore, the November 5, 2014 suicide bombing at the Wagah border post that killed 65 and the February 17, 2015 suicide attack outside the main gate of the Police Lines in Lahore which killed five people.


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