The Taliban government in Afghanistan is facilitating ongoing negotiations between Pakistan and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the “Pakistani Taliban,” to forge a peace deal between the two parties (Twitter/@Zabehulah_M33, May 18). The Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, made it clear there was significant progress in the negotiation process when the Pakistani delegation was in Kabul in May. He noted that a second delegation had arrived in Kabul to convince both sides to reach an agreement. The TTP extended its ceasefire until further notice as a result, which signaled that the group was near to reaching an agreement (pakobserver.net, June 3). Another sign of positive developments was the fact that the former head of Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the current Corps Commander Peshawar, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, were both in Kabul from early May to lead the negotiations with the TTP (Khaama.com, May 17).
Since the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August last year, TTP attacks on Pakistani security forces have accelerated despite Taliban pledges that Afghan soil will not be used as a base of terrorist operations against any country (a pledge also made in the Doha agreement with the U.S). These repeated pledges led Islamabad to expect that the TTP would not be able to use Afghan soil as a sanctuary for carrying out attacks in Pakistan.  Nevertheless, it has become clear that this was a false hope; with every passing day TTP attacks have surged in Pakistan’s tribal areas following the Taliban takeover of Kabul (Dawn, January 23). Pakistan has, therefore, constantly requested the Taliban punish the TTP and not allow it to use Afghan soil for attacks against Pakistan. Nevertheless, there has been a lack of action from the Taliban side (Dawn, January 27).
In late January 2022, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, Moeed Yusuf, visited Afghanistan to meet with Taliban leadership to discuss the TTP issue and demand the TTP be prevented from using the Afghan soil as a base to attack Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Taliban, however, has taken a middle path and facilitated talks between the Pakistani government and TTP instead of cracking down on the latter. The Taliban is confronting several challenges in the political, economic, and security realms, including combating Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), which has distracted it from reigning in the TTP (South Asia Journal, September 16, 2021).
Why are TTP Attacks Accelerating?
For several reasons, TTP attacks accelerated in Pakistan following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. First, the Taliban released all jihadist prisoners in jails across Afghanistan immediately following its takeover. Among these prisoners, a handful of former TTP militants were released, including the former deputy head, Molvi Faqir Muhammad, who was in Bagram’s prison for eight years (PIPS Quarterly Monitor-1, September 2021). The release of TTP members emboldened the Pakistani Taliban and added to its cadres.
Second, the Taliban victory inspired TTP fighters, giving them hope that they, too, could one day rule over the tribal areas of Pakistan just as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.
Third, the TTP feared that the Taliban may prevent them from using Afghan soil in the future, even going so far as to limit TTP activities because the of the Doha agreement with the U.S. (Doha agreement, February 29, 2020). Therefore, due to Pakistan’s and the Taliban’s close contact, TTP knew Pakistan would demand the Taliban act against them. To date, though, the Taliban has not been willing or able to stop the TTP from using Afghan soil for their attacks because the Taliban have good relations with TTP, which is based on a variety of shared networks, personnel, and experiences, including fighting together against U.S. forces in the region (Twitter/Kabulnewstv, June 4). On the other hand, Islamabad has proven unable to exert enough pressure to compel the Taliban to crack down on the TTP.
Fourth, the seriousness of the Pakistani government’s desire for negotiations provided leverage to the TTP and enabled it to have a better bargaining position. Pakistan wants to resolve this security issue because it is hurting its economy by delaying the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as hurting trade with the Central Asian states. The TTP knew that if Pakistan desperately sought a peace deal, then an accelerated offensive would force Pakistan to be more willing to agree to TTP terms. In September last year, for example, Pakistani President Arif Alvi hinted at conditional amnesty to TTP if the group laid down its arms (Express Tribune, September 11, 2021).
In the past, the Pakistani government has attempted numerous times, such as in the Shakai agreement of 2004, Srarogha agreement of 2005, and Swat agreement of 2008, to make a deal with the TTP to end the insurgency (The News, November 9, 2021). However, none of those agreements yielded the desired results of peace, stability, and the dissolution of the TTP. With the Taliban involved in the process this time, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. If the Taliban is serious about resolving the conflict between the TTP and Pakistani government, it has the ability to place enough pressure on TTP to strike a deal because the TTP leadership is mostly based in Afghanistan. If Pakistan implements a strategy for negotiations by carrying both carrots, such as ensuring further support to the Taliban in the future, and sticks, such as showing signs of a military operation in tribal areas against TTP, then the chances of a successful settlement may also increase.
Pakistani officials could still risk undermining any peace deal if they do not refrain from statements like that of Rana Sanaullah, in which he said that “negotiation with TTP is heading under the Constitution of Pakistan” (Dawn, June 22). This is because TTP does not recognize the Pakistani constitution. This whole situation led to a strongly worded, negative reaction by the TTP (Twitter, Abd. Syedd, June 24). Moreover, in the TTP-Pakistan talks, the former seems better placed due to its offensive on the one hand and the determination of the Pakistani government to realize positive outcomes of the negotiations on the other. The chance of a positive result in forging a deal is further facilitated by an influential mediator, the Taliban, which has the capacity to be a guarantor of the agreement. Pakistan will need to wisely play its cards and limit the TTP to minimal demands.
 Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai, The Troubled Triangle: US-Pakistan Relations under the Taliban’s Shadow (London/New York: Routledge, 2021), p. 150.