Reaction of the Afghan Taliban to the Pakistani Government’s Offensive in Swat

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 17

Taliban Spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi

With Pakistan carrying out its most concerted offensive yet against an expanding Taliban insurgency, the situation of Pakistani Pashtuns fighting for the Afghan Taliban appears uncertain, despite a clear statement issued by a Taliban spokesman on the responsibilities of these fighters:  “The Pakistani Taliban are here in Afghanistan to fight Americans and do jihad. They are under our direct command and will never go back to Pakistan until they have been killed or the Americans pull out from Afghanistan,” says Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi. [1]

The focus of the fighting in Pakistan has been the former tourist destination of Swat, a valley 120 km (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad. Tension has also been rising in South Waziristan, an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold where military officials say an offensive is likely after Swat is secured. Now the question is whether those Pakistani Taliban who are fighting the Kabul government and its international allies will go back to support their friends and comrades in Pakistan. According to Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, those Pakistani Taliban who have come to Afghanistan to fight Americans are under Afghan Taliban leadership and are not allowed to go back to Pakistan. Ahmadi claims, “the Number of Pakistani Taliban is very limited in Afghanistan; they are here to do jihad; they are not allowed to go back and they haven’t decided to do that.” [1]
Ahmadi says the conflicts in Pakistan and Afghanistan are different, explaining that the Pakistani Taliban are fighting the government to receive their rights, but in Afghanistan it is a holy war and the aim is to free Afghanistan from the Americans and other “heathens.” Ahmadi added that the Pakistan government’s offensive against the Taliban in Pakistan has no negative effect on Taliban activities in Afghanistan: “[the offensive] hasn’t affected our activities – we are continuing our operations and getting stronger day by day.” [1]
General Mohammad Zahiz Azimi, spokesman for the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense, says there has been no decrease in Taliban attacks since the government offensive started in Pakistan. [2] Azizmi says security forces are not expecting any decrease in Taliban attacks this summer but hope the Pakistani government offensive against the Taliban of Pakistan’s northwest frontier will have a good effect on the security situation in Afghanistan. “In the summer we are expecting an increase in Taliban activities in Afghanistan because the weather is becoming warm and the insurgents can stay in the mountains. From the other side, Afghanistan will have presidential and provincial council election soon [August 20] – that is another reason for the increase in Taliban activities as they are trying to sabotage the situation.”  [2]

Azimi has elsewhere stated the Afghan National Army’s support for further operations in Pakistan’s frontier region:  

“In particular, we were pleased with the news of the Pakistani army operations in the province of South Waziristan. We hope that such operations will be held in the province of Northern Waziristan. We also stated that we are ready to support Pakistan. We are willing to share information with Pakistan, provide information on security and will make every effort to strengthen control on the Afghan-Pakistani border. I would like to also add that we are ready to expand border military operations against the Taliban, together with the Pakistani army. But that does not mean that we intend to send military forces to Pakistan, support the army or take any other step that violates the sovereignty of the country” (Interview with Trend News Agency [Baku], May 29).

Azimi says that there is an increase in roadside mines and suicide attacks compared to previous years. According to the General, the Taliban have lost the capability of fighting face to face with Afghan security forces and their international allies, but Taliban spokesman Ahmadi says the increase in roadside bombs and suicide attacks does not mean that the Taliban are getting weaker. According to Ahmadi, the Taliban are getting stronger and are using new tactics to defeat its enemy.

General Azimi warns that if Islamabad succeeds in taking control of Malakand Division and Waziristan from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the movement’s fighters will escape to Afghanistan, creating some short-term problems for the Afghan government and its international allies. “They will escape from Pakistan to Afghanistan and we will be facing problems for six months to a year, but we are fully ready to defeat them.” The General says terrorism is a regional problem and requires regional cooperation to be defeated.

There is, however, a chance that the upcoming American “surge” in Afghanistan will do what the Afghan Taliban leadership has so far prevented – an influx of Taliban fighters into Pakistan. The U.S. President’s Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, expressed such concerns in a recent visit to Pakistan; "I don’t want to be alarmist here, but I’m predicting some massive influx" (AFP, June 6; The News [Islamabad], June 6).


[1] All remarks by Qari Yusuf Ahmadi are taken from a June 7 interview with the author.

[2] Unless otherwise specified, all remarks by General Mohammad Zahiz Azimi are taken from a June 9 interview with the author.