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EDITORIAL: The United Nations has warned that the presence of a large number of terrorists in Afghanistan, particularly those affiliated with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and ISIL-Khorasan, is posing a serious threat to security of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The UN's monitoring team's 26th report submitted to Security Council and uploaded on its website on July 23, 2020, 'vindicates Pakistan's stance on terrorism emanating from the Afghan soil, as the presence of a large number of terrorists taking shelter across the border and frequently targeting Pakistani security forces and civilians is a major source of concern for the country,' said officials and security analysts. For years Pakistan has been accusing Afghanistan of providing sanctuary to its home-grown terrorists across the border, from where they plan and mount all the attacks inside Pakistan, killing about eighty thousand Pakistanis at the peak some years ago.

But now, of late, the sleeper cells have apparently been going active again and conducting attacks all the way inside the Pakistani territory, first in Balochistan then in the former tribal area of Kurram Agency, which houses the region's Shia population. Such attacks have all been seen before and bear all the hallmarks of anti-state agenda; that is, people wishing to bring down the state into a state of anarchy. "The total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP," the UN monitoring team pointed out in its report. It stated that a large terrorist group present in Afghanistan - TTP - is led by Amir Noor Wali Mehsud, supported by his deputy Qari Amjad and TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khorasani. All the three terrorists have not been listed by the UNSC as yet.

Now that this is out in the open, and the security of both countries is challenged, it is up to both governments to form an abiding coalition to sort out all these bad guys. It is commonly known that Kabul is not much worried about what goes on in the periphery, particularly along the Pakistani border, but when there is will on both sides to take down this wall of terrorism, the thinking about deciding should not take much time. The Americans have still not left, and can definitely lend a hand, ensuring that this place is as quiet as can be before they leave and there is no chance of further violence anytime soon.

The report mentioned that the TTP has claimed responsibility for various high-profile attacks in Pakistan and has facilitated others by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Lashkar-e-Islam. It stated that many former TTP members have already joined ISIL-K, adding that the Member States expect that the group and its various splinter groups will align themselves with ISIL-K. Yet when Pakistan made these claims it was immediately sidelined, in Kabul as well as in Washington. It noted that a number of other terrorist groups are active in Afghanistan, most operating under the umbrella of the Taliban but some aligned with ISIL-K, just like Islamabad earlier pointed out. The monitoring team estimates the current ISIL-K membership in Afghanistan at 2,200 and its leader Sheikh Matiullah Kamahwal (also not listed), previously the head of ISIL-K is in Kunar.

The ISIL-K leadership also includes Syrian national Abu Said Mohammad al-Khorasani and Sheikh Abdul Tahir - both not listed as global terrorists. The Team was informed that two senior ISIL commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, had arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East. Through foreign terrorist fighters, ISIL-K has maintained contact with new overall ISIL leader, al-Mawla, although the ISIL core is no longer assessed to play a key role in the internal decision-making of ISIL-K, it further noted.

The report also pointed out that al-Qaida is covertly active in 12 Afghan provinces and its leader Aiman al-Zawahiri remains based in the country. The monitoring team estimates the total number of al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan at between 400 and 600 while its leadership maintains close contact with the Haqqani Network.

Since one of the principal motives of the American invasion was neutralising/killing/removing all al Qaeda from the country, it could well be argued that the original mission remains incomplete in light of this report; thus justifying trilateral action.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020