Pakistan struck terrorists in Afghanistan via Air Campaign

On Monday, Pakistan struck terrorists in Afghanistan via “intelligence-based” aerial strikes. The strikes were aimed at punishing the “terrorists” responsible for the deaths of civilians and security forces in cross-border raids. The operation specifically targeted fugitive commanders associated with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a globally designated terrorist organization based in Afghan sanctuaries. Afghanistan’s Taliban government denounced the strikes, claiming that eight civilians, mostly women and children, were killed. However, the identities of the deceased could not be independently verified. 

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry stated that it had repeatedly urged the Afghan authorities to take action against terrorism and the use of Afghan soil as a base for attacks on Pakistan. Islamabad also accused certain elements in power in Kabul of supporting the TTP and using them as proxies against Pakistan. The statement called on the Taliban to reconsider their support for foreign terrorists and stand with the people of Pakistan. The military action seems to be in retaliation for a militant raid on a Pakistani military base that resulted in the deaths of seven soldiers. 

Pakistan struck terrorists in Afghanistan KILLING eight civilians. The Taliban condemned the airstrikes, stating that they violated Afghanistan’s territory. They denied allowing militant groups to use Afghan soil against Pakistan or any other country. In response, Taliban border forces engaged in retaliatory fire at Pakistani outposts, leading to skirmishes along the border. The Taliban Defense Ministry confirmed that they used heavy weapons to target Pakistani positions. They did this in response to the incursions into Afghan territory. Kabul summoned the chief Pakistani diplomat to the foreign ministry to protest the cross-border raid. Separately, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed that the airstrikes targeted Pakistani refugee camps in the Afghan border area. However, this claim could not be immediately verified.

In another development, the Pakistani military announced that its troops had conducted a pre-dawn security operation in North Waziristan. This resulted in the killing of eight TTP members. Among the slain militants was a key commander who played a role in plotting the attack on the army base on Saturday.

Islamabad claims that the TTP has escalated its cross-border attacks from Afghan sanctuaries. This is happening since the Taliban government took power in Kabul in 2021. The violence has reportedly led to the deaths of approximately 2,000 Pakistanis. The dead include police and military personnel, and strained relations between the two countries.

In April 2022, Pakistani fighter planes also launched raids against TTP hideouts in Afghanistan.

There is an ongoing dispute between Pakistan and the United Nations regarding the Taliban’s denial of harboring foreign militant groups. The head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, expressed concerns over the presence of terrorist groups, including TTP, in the region during a U.N. Security Council meeting held on March 6, 2024.

Last month, the U.N. Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated in a report that al-Qaida operatives were increasingly assisting TTP militants in conducting cross-border attacks. The report also highlighted that some members of the ruling Taliban had joined the TTP.

During a seminar in Islamabad, Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s special representative to Afghanistan, revealed that up to 6,000 TTP fighters are currently taking refuge in the neighboring country.

The violence led by the TTP has strained Pakistan’s relations with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, prompting Islamabad to tighten border controls for Afghan travelers. Over the past six months, Pakistan has deported more than 500,000 Afghans, without valid documents, back to their home country, intensifying bilateral tensions.

Pakistani authorities have pledged to resume the deportation process in April after the conclusion of the ongoing Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.