Pakistan must not allow the Islamic State to gain strength in its tribal agencies.
U.S. General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, told American lawmakers last week the Islamic State militant group’s offshoot in South Asia—the Khorasan group—is now heavily manned by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorists. In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, he also said that the North Waziristan tribal agency in Pakistan has not been completely cleansed of militants. He took particular note of Orakzai Agency, alleging that members of the Pakistani Taliban had joined I.S. “en masse” and “formed the initial group of fighters who then moved into Afghanistan’s Nangrahar province.”
It’s clear from Nicholson’s statement that Pakistan’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb, meant to flush out terrorists such as the Haqqani Network from the region, has yet to achieve its goals and the tribal agency remains a source of concern. It’s also clear that I.S.’s sectarian appeal has found traction among the Pakistani Taliban, evidence of which is readily available from I.S.’s self-claimed role in a Quetta attack on lawyers last year and the recent bombing of the Shia community in Parachinar. Pakistan’s major terror threat now is increasingly from I.S., whose social media recruitment has attracted youths as far away as Karachi, the city with the largest Shia population.
Pakistan will likely continue to face trouble from the Pakistani Taliban, whose leader Fazlullah perpetrated mindless massacres in the name of Islam in the Swat Valley in 2008 before a military operation forced him to flee to Afghanistan. Of course Kabul, quick to accuse Pakistan of “interfering” through cross-border terrorist assaults, is equally blamed by Pakistan of providing safe haven to killers who slaughtered nearly 150 people—mostly children—at the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014.
General Nicholson is the best man in Afghanistan to look into this two-way war of accusations and prevent the region from becoming an arena of horrendous attrition that will ultimately target the West and the United States.