Pakistan warns Kabul its military will hit terror hideouts inside Afghanistan

Pakistan’s defense minister, Khawaja Asif, said this week that Islamabad has warned the Taliban that it will strike terrorist hideouts inside Afghanistan if the Taliban fail to root out anti-Pakistan militants in the country.

In an exclusive interview with Voice of America, Asif said Wednesday that he warned the Taliban of Islamabad’s intention during his visit to the country late February. “If that is not done, at some point we’ll have to … resort to some measures, which will definitely — wherever [terrorists] are, their sanctuaries on Afghan soil — we’ll have to hit them,” he said. “We’ll have to hit them because we cannot tolerate this situation for long.”

Pakistan has seen a resurgence in violence since the Taliban seized control of the country in August 2021. These attacks, carried out mainly by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also increased significantly following the breakdown of peace talks between the militant group and Islamabad in November last year. 

For the past few months, Pakistan has regularly raised concerns about the TTP being given so-called sanctuary in Afghanistan.

In January, the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) said in its annual security report for 2022 that the “TTP is becoming a major irritant in Pak-Afghan relations”. The report also noted that a 27 percent increase in terror attacks had been recorded in 2022, against those in 2021.

The report also stated that the TTP “is believed to be operating from the neighboring Afghanistan, remained one of the major actors of violence in Pakistan in the year 2022.”

A total of 262 terrorist attacks took place in Pakistan last year, including 14 suicide bombings. In total, 419 lives were claimed and another 734 people were wounded. 

However, the Taliban have repeatedly stated that the TTP are not operating from Afghanistan. When asked if he believed the Taliban’s stance, Asif said, “they still operate from their soil.”

Asif claimed Taliban leadership “responded very well” to the recent warning and told VOA he believes they are trying to “disentangle” themselves from the TTP.Asif said however that he hopes the security threat to his country will not escalate to a point where “we have to do something which will not be to the liking of our neighbors and our brothers in Kabul.”