Sanaullah, who believes the TTP has between 7,000 and 10,000 foot soldiers, warned in a TV interview last week that the Pakistani forces could target the TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s border regions, if Kabul did not listen to requests for action against them.
“Afghanistan is our brotherly country and we will first talk to them to dismantle the TTP hideouts… but if they don’t then the international laws give you the right to target those who attack you,” Sanaullah said while speaking in an Express News show.
In Kabul, the Ministry of National Defense said it considers Sanaullah’s claim about the presence of TTP in Afghanistan and his threat of possible attack inside Afghanistan as “provocative and baseless”.
“It damages the good relations between the two neighbouring and brotherly countries with such claims by Pakistani officials despite the existence of evidence indicating that the (TTP) centres are inside Pakistan,” the defense ministry said in a statement posted on its official Twitter handle.
It requested Pakistan to resolve any concerns and problems amicably through understanding. However, in the end, it threatened that in case of any military action, the Taliban forces would defend their country.
“Afghanistan is not without its owner, as always, we are ready to defend the territorial integrity and independence of our homeland, and it is mentionable we have better experience than anyone in defending and protecting our country,” the defense ministry said.
The Taliban government spokesperson Zabihullagh Mujahid also warned that nobody would be allowed to carry out an “attack inside Afghanistan”. “No country has a right to carry out an attack on the territory of another country,” Mujahid said.
“No international law sanctions such an attack,” he added. “If anyone has any issue, they should raise it with us and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan could take action,” he further said while reiterating that Afghanistan wants good relations with Pakistan.
The spat came amid a steep rise in the attacks by the TTP which publicly scrapped a ceasefire in November last year after the Kabul-brokered peace process hit an insurmountable deadlock over the group’s key demands. Since then, the group has carried out dozens of attacks in different parts of the country.
The spurt in TTP attacks has triggered security concerns in the country which is already reeling from political instability and economic volatility.
Last week, the top military commanders reiterated their resolve to preserve the hard-earned gains in the counterterrorism fight. “It was resolved to fight against terrorists without any distinction and eliminate this menace as per the aspirations of people of the Pakistan,” the ISPR said in a statement after the corps commanders’ conference.
The GHQ huddle was followed by a session of the National Security Council (NSC), the country’s highest forum on security and foreign policy, where the participants decided to respond with “full force” to those who challenged the country. According to a minister who attended the meeting, there was a consensus in the NSC meeting that the government has no option but to move towards a “clearance operation”.
Pakistan has repeatedly asked the new Afghan rulers to take action against the TTP safe havens on Afghan soil, but the Taliban regime has been non-committal. On a recent visit to the US, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the TTP is “our red line”.
“As far as the TTP is concerned, it’s absolutely our red line. It is something that we will not tolerate,” said Bilawal while speaking at the Atlantic Council, Washington, on Tuesday evening. “And absolutely we will be willing to consider each and every single option to ensure the safety and security of our people,” he added.
Bilawal said that if the TTP received help from Afghanistan, then it would be bad for Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. “There is a need to create a consensus on the issue of Afghanistan because no nation wants that country to become an epicentre of terrorism in the world,” he added.