TTP’s Survival Strategy Towards End Game

TTP-End GameBy Brig Iftikhar Ayub Khan (Retd)

When the end comes near and victory seems distant than survival is the only option left. TTP came into being in 2007, before that they had restricted themselves to their respective agencies; mostly operating against US/ISAF in Afghanistan. Occasionally, they used to attack Pakistan security forces in retaliation to border interdiction, drone attacks and Lal Masjid etc. In fact, Lal Masjid incident became the catalyst for the Taliban to start looking inwards i.e. Pakistan, especially security forces and agencies. Till mid of 2007 the operations, both by Taliban as well as security forces, were restricted to North and South Waziristan agencies ; however, towards end of the year the operations escalated to Swat, Bajour, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai and Kurrum agencies. Consequently, Taliban created TTP under BaithUllah Masud.  TTP since its inception is a loosely netted organization with more of a symbolic orientation and less of a real combined force/threat e.g. Taliban in SWA, Swat, Bajour and Mohmand are either defeated or dormant; however, in rest of the agencies Taliban are still a fighting force (correspondingly to the intensity of security forces operations) under their respective command chain.

Since 2008, there has been an all out war between TTP and security forces and as they say in military language no quarter sought or given. TTP has over a period of time kept modifying its operational strategy to pressurize Government and security forces to deal with the TTP as the sole representative of FATA. Hooping from one operational spectrum to the other, TTP not only successfully survived the military onslaught for well over five years but also proved its ferocity and reach.  Thousands have died from both sides including innocent civilians. TTP did gain varying degree of success but the type of acknowledgement they wanted eluded them for all these years.

TTP failed in accessing the resoluteness of security forces. Their attempts to subdue the security forces as well as the Government failed time and again. TTP is a tired force now; it has lost good deal of top tier and now second and third tier commanders are at the top. It has reached its culminating point and wants a permanent peace deal, a deal that may ensure the survival of TTP stalwarts even after 2014, with some semblance of control over respective agencies. Moreover, TTP finds itself marginalized in view of Doha initiative, where Afghan Taliban are getting international recognition, but no worthwhile peace initiative in FATA or signs of TTP acceptance. Here lies the essence as to why TTP has escalated the level of violence since new political set up has taken over, alongwith other reasons like drones, killing of Waliur Rehman etc.

TTP sees the end game fast approaching i.e. December 2014. With US/ISAF out of Afghanistan, the concept of Jihad will also evaporate and thus evaporate the funding/ support of TTP and similar groups. Afghan Taliban are already annoyed of TTP, in view of TTP’s unabated attacks on Pakistan’s security forces. Attacks on Pakistani security forces are in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban’s military strategy; that is all military engagements to take place in Afghanistan so as to avoid dissipation of resources and manpower. Whereas, TTP’s strategy is in line with US military strategy that manifest  maximum engagements to take place in FATA to save US/ISAF forces in Afghanistan. Moreover, after December 2014 Afghan Taliban will need Pakistan’s support as against TTP for formulation of future Afghan Government. TTP is intelligent enough to see the future unfolding till well after December 2014.They understand that if status quo prevailed till after 2014, TTP will be at the mercy of Pakistan’s security forces, the locals of FATA (directly) and Afghan Taliban (indirectly).

The above in perspective, TTP is increasingly getting frustrated  and realize that before they get isolated and ultimately annihilated they must act now and get some sought of relief / acceptance from newly installed Pakistan Government; thus the increased intensity in terrorist attacks. Pakistan Government and security forces on their part must follow the strategy of long engagement (dialogue) and preservation. The one who persevere will carry the day in the end. Afghan Taliban are a force to reckon with but TTP cannot and should not demand the same.

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