When was TTP Banned?
Under the Executive Order 13224, signed by President Bush on September 23, 2001, the United States on Sept 1st formally designated the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as a foreign terrorist organization. Daniel Benjamin, the Ambassador-at-Large for Counterterrorism formally announced it at a press briefing, thereby making the TTP the latest addition to a list of 47 such banned organizations. The Executive Order 13224 provides the government a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism.
Earlier, secretary of State Hillary Clinton had cleared the way for TTPs designation as a foreign terrorist organization on August 12. “I conclude that there is a sufficient factual basis to find that the relevant circumstances described in section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act exists with respect to the group,” she wrote. “Therefore, I hereby designate the aforementioned organization and its aliases as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to section 219 of the INA,” according to an email distributed by the State Department.
Mesh of Militancy:
Tehreek-e Taliban, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, was founded in December 2007, consisting of a number of militant groups operating in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Formed under the direction of militant leader Baitullah Mehsud, TTP went on to become the most lethal outfit, publicly stating the Pakistani army as its enemy number one. Hekimullah Mehsud became the group’s leader when Baitullah Mehsud died in a US drone attack on August 5th, 2009. Wali Ur Rehman Mehsud is the TTP amir in the Mehsud region of South Waziristan.
Several militant Organizations, largely relevant to both Pakistan and Afghanistan, such as al Qaeda, Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), Lashkar-e Taiba (LT) Lashkar i Jhangvi, and Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI) are already part of the list.
TTP-al Qaeda Nexus Found:
Benajamin said that by implication both Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali Ur Rehman also stand designated as terrorists. “The TTP and al-Qaida have a symbiotic relationship. TTP draws ideological guidance from al-Qaida while al-Qaida relies on the TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border.” This mutual cooperation gives TTP access to both al-Qaida’s global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members. Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, TTP is a force multiplier for al-Qaida,” Benajamin explained.
Benajamin described the Mehsud duo as “dedicated terrorists who are attempting to extend their bloody reach into the American homeland,’ and by implication carry 5 million dollars each on their heads, offered under the US Rewards for Justice Program. The RFJ, initiated in 1984, has paid more than $100 million to more than 60 people who provided “credible information that prevented international terrorist attacks or helped bring terrorists to justice.”
…but Why Action Now?
The TTP caught the US lawmakers’ attention after the abortive May one Times Square, New York, bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty in June of contacts with the TTP. Shahzad warned of “more strikes on the United States until it leaves Muslim lands.” He told the judge he had undergone five days of bomb-making training during a 40-day stay with the Taliban in Pakistan, between December 9 and January 25.
“This organization poses an existential threat to the safety of not only our soldiers fighting abroad, but also Americans here at home. It’s time we dealt them with every tool at our disposal,” Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer had said in June.
Not a Favor to Pakistan:
On the face of it the designation of TTP entails little implications for Pakistan since state institutions such as the army have already declared this outfit as the public enemy. But in reality, it should bring more pressure on the country for more tangible actions against the organization, in tandem with its verbal commitment not to allow any terror outfit use Pakistani soil for terrorism in or outside the country.
The latest wave of terror, both in Lahore and Karachi, also underscores the need for impairing networks that draw inspiration from al Qaeda and are out to inflict gradual but regular attrition on the country, thereby keeping the security apparatus on tenterhooks in a volatile and insecure environment.
If claims by the security establishment were any indicator the Lashkare Jhangvi (LeJ) has also clearly emerged as a force-multiplier for al Qaeda, which considers it legal and legitimate to attack the interests of anybody, group or country that is cooperating with the US-led western alliance in the anti-terror war.
Pakistani Army and Nation: Fighting the Menace of Terror:
So, Pakistan has to deal not only with al Qaeda, its foreign extension the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – both nestled in the mountainous Waziristan region – but also with the increasingly lethal LeJ-TTP combination. Not only do they share the al Qaeda ideology but also supplement each other wherever needed. The deadly attacks on the Parade Lane Mosque (Dec 4, 2009), the siege of the GHQ (Oct 10), the raid on the Mananwan Police Academy (October 2009), the strike on the Ahmedi Mosque in Lahore (May 28th, 2010), are all but a few examples of the close coordination between these two organizations. They are applying the same tactics they learnt in Kashmir and Afghanistan for their acts of terror inside Pakistan.
The real challenge, in addition to disruption of their activities, lies in penetrating the command structures of terror networks to figure out their links with sponsors and financiers. Where the guidance and money coming from is the main question simply because what Pakistan is witnessing today cannot be explained away just as “acts of terror by religiously motivated groups.” It is a war of attrition through groups which are delivering cuts into the body of the country with the clear objective of creating instability and denting its economy.
Terrorism in Pakistan is an Intelligence Challenge:
Pakistan is currently pitched against a multitude of domestic and external vested interest, a combination of religious zeal, political ideology, and external drivers who may be using local militant groups or their splinters to keep Pakistan destabilized. It is for the mighty intelligence establishment to figure out. If it cannot, the collusion of ideologically driven outfits, criminal gangs and external forces – the al Qaeda force multipliers – will keep bleeding this country. It is primarily an intelligence challenge.