Concerns persist over TTP members ‘relocating’ to northern Afghanistan

File photo.

Amid ongoing reports of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters and their families being relocated to northern Afghanistan, the former vice president’s Junbish-e-Milli party said several “unidentified” families have been moved into the area.

Abdul Rashid Dostum’s National Islamic Movement Party, also known as Junbish-e-Milli, has a strong foothold in northern Afghanistan and members have said several families have been resettled in Khwaja Bahauddin and Dasht Qala districts of Takhar, Dasht Archi in Kunduz, as well as parts of Faryab and Sar-e-Pul.

The identity of these families remains unclear and it is not known whether these families are associated with the TTP.

Speaking out about the suspected resettlement of TTP members was former foreign minister Hanif Atmar who condemned the move by the Taliban and Pakistan in relocating terrorist networks within Afghanistan. Atmar noted that as a result of this process, some individuals have lost their land and property.

“The Taliban should be aware that bringing terrorists to Afghanistan and resorting to illegal means, force, and violence to deprive our oppressed people of their land and property will not lead to peace and stability, neither in Afghanistan nor in the region!” he exclaimed.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, Iran’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, also warned the region of serious consequences of moving TTP members to northern Afghanistan.

Bahrami stated that resettling the TTP in the north would perpetuate insecurity in Pakistan given the militant group’s failure to end its campaign of violence in Pakistan and their connections with extremist groups.

He also highlighted the potential implications for the Taliban in terms of their bargaining power with Central Asia and China, and in terms of avoiding social and security crises in northern Afghanistan.

Farooq Aleem, a political expert, meanwhile said: “Any influx of non-indigenous people and terrorist groups into northern Afghanistan will inevitably lead to widespread conflict, bloodshed among the people, and enduring instability in the region and neighboring countries.”

On the other hand, Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan, discussed the issue of TTP being relocated to northern Afghanistan in an interview with Pakistani media. While neither confirming nor denying the plan, Durrani referred to the Taliban’s efforts and stated that Islamabad is awaiting the outcome of a process aimed at containing the TTP.

“I have no information about this; the process is ongoing. We are waiting for the result,” he said.

Durrani also implicated India in the issue of TTP and said that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan receives financial support from New Delhi.

“The relocation of TTP to northern Afghanistan has not been confirmed thus far. If an official authority confirms this, the consequences will undoubtedly be detrimental to the country and the region,” warned political expert Gadham Amin.

While Pakistan accuses India of providing financial assistance to the TTP, the Indian Prime Minister, during a recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, indirectly addressed the issue by stating that several countries employ cross-border terrorism as a political tool. These remarks were perceived to be directed at Pakistan, according to experts.

‘Two countries reach shared understanding’

Reports first emerged about a month ago of the Taliban and the Pakistan government having agreed on a plan to relocate members of the TTP to northern Afghanistan.

At the time, a senior security official of Pakistan told Anadolu on condition of anonymity that “the two countries have reached a shared understanding regarding the project, but no practical measures have been taken to implement it thus far.”

He also said at the time that funding for the relocation will be provided by Pakistan.

The same week, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch declined to comment on the report during a weekly press briefing in Islamabad. She said: “I would not like to go into specifics on this particular issue. We are engaged with the Afghan interim government on the serious concerns that Pakistan has about the menace of terrorism.”

She said Islamabad is looking forward to working “closely” with Afghanistan to counter the terrorist threat.

Pakistan and the TTP have held several rounds of peace talks and reached various cease-fires since the militant group’s inception in 2007. However, these have all fallen through, with both sides accusing each other of violating the agreements.

The Taliban has also not officially confirmed an agreement with Pakistan over the relocation of TTP members.