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TTP an obstacle in improving Pak-Afghan ties

With the exit of Americans and the Afghan Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, there was a general sense of relief in Pakistan that its security woes along its western borders will be over.

But over the past many months, activity in this region has witnessed a spurt, forcing Pakistan to purportedly conduct air raids inside Afghanistan on Friday. Though the Pakistan Army’s media wing, Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR), had not issued a statement as of Monday, a member of parliament, Mohsin Dawar, raised the issue on Sunday and claimed that innocent refugees from North and South Waziristan, once semi-autonomous tribal districts of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who now live across the border in Afghanistan’s Khost and Kunar provinces, were killed in these raids.

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While a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not explicitly accept responsibility for the airstrikes, it did particularly highlight the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) escalated assaults across Afghanistan territory.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on Sunday specifically mentioned retaliatory action against the TTP. Afghan Foreign Ministry statement said Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Deputy Defense Minister Mullah Shirin Akhund met the Pakistani ambassador and “condemned the recent attacks on Khost and Kunar provinces, stressing prevention of such acts.”

“Minister Muttaqi said all military violations, including that in Khost and Kunar, must be prevented as such acts deteriorate relations between the two countries, allowing antagonists to misuse the situation leading to undesired consequences,” the statement said. It added the Pakistani envoy was given a strong demarche.

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also condemned the alleged attacks. The death toll from Pakistan’s military air raids on targets in the eastern Afghanistan provinces of Khost and Kunar on Saturday has risen to at least 47, Afghan officials said.

“Forty-one civilians, mainly women and children, were killed and 22 others were wounded in airstrikes by Pakistani forces near the Durand Line in Khost province,” Shabir Ahmad Osmani, director of information and culture in Khost, told media.

The TTP, an umbrella organisation for several militant groups, has upped attacks against Pakistani security forces in recent months, particularly in April.

On April 14, seven soldiers were killed when militants ambushed a vehicle of security forces in Datakhel town of North Waziristan tribal district. Officials said the militants attacked a moving vehicle of the security forces near the Afghan border.

According to informed sources who requested anonymity, the attack was carried out by the Taliban’s Hafiz Gulbahadar group, the majority of whose members reside in the northeastern Afghan province of Kunar.

In the first three months of this year, 97 soldiers and officers were killed in attacks, Pakistan Army spokesman Lt Gen Baber Iftikhar said at a press briefing on Friday, saying these attacks were carried out from across Afghanistan.

The TTP also claimed the killing of nearly a dozen Pakistani soldiers during an ambush in the Mirali area of the North Waziristan tribal district on April 2, declaring the launch of their new wave of assaults called Al-Badr, according to the militant’s social media account.

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