U.S. Drone Strike Kills 21 Pakistani Taliban Linked Fighters

On March 7th a U.S. drone fired missiles at a terrorist training camp linked to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Saresha Sultan Shah, Afghanistan, killing 21 Pakistani Taliban-linked fighters. The TTP has ties with, but is distinct from the Afghan Taliban.

Officials said the airstrike killed Gul Mohammad who is a TTP leader in the Bajaur Agency on the Afghan border, Qari Yaseen who officials describe as a “master trainer of suicide bombers,” and the son of TTP leader Fazlullah Khorasani.

While violence from TTP has dropped in recent years, they continue to carry out sporadic large-scale attacks. TTP’s most notorious attacks include the 2014 Peshawar school shooting where 141 students and staff were killed and the 2016 Bacha Khan University attack killing 30 people. In 2017, the TTP had killed 748 civilians and security forces which is down from 3,739 in 2012.

On May 1st of 2010 a Pakistani man named Faisal Shahzad attempted to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Time Square. Shahzad parked a white van on the side of the street and then fled the area, luckily the attempt ended in failure as the bomb did not go off. Qari Hussain Mehsud who is known to be the “top bomb maker” for the TTP took credit for the attempted attack. Five months later in September of 2010 the U.S. State Department put TTP on a list of terrorist organizations, and placed Hakimullah Mehsud whom was the TTP’s leader between 2009-2013 and Wali ur-Rehman who was a senior TTP commander as specially designated global terrorism.

TTP was formed in 2007 under Baitullah Mehsud and mostly operate on the northwest border of Pakistan in the Waziristan region. According to the State Department, TTP is fighting to overthrow Pakistan’s government. Since 2008 the Pakistani government has been fighting the TTP along the border with Afghanistan. In 2014 the Pakistani government conducted peace talks with the TTP to end the on-going conflict where thousands of people had been killed, but failed to reach any kind of agreement.

The failed peace talks does little to eliminate the image of Pakistan having done little to combat the TTP, one of several terrorist organizations that operate within Pakistan amid relative safety. For example, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which has operated openly in the country for years and their leader Saeed Hafiz whom was recently arrested, openly operated out of Pakistan. The group is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and numerous other attacks throughout Afghanistan and India.

Because of Pakistan’s failure to control Terror groups it is at risk of being placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey” list. This could potentially hurt Pakistan’s economy, making it harder for the country to meet its foreign financing needs. This could lead to a downgrade in Pakistan’s debt rating making it difficult to tap into international bond markets.

Placing Pakistan on FATF’s grey list may not have any significant impact to Pakistan’s economy. Pakistan was on this same list between 2012 and 2015 where they were able to complete an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program and raise $5 billion from international bond markets. Pakistan’s imports and exports were also able to remain stable, giving little evidence that the grey listing had any significant impact.

Pakistan was able to avoid being put on the grey list back in February during a FATF meeting in Paris, by presenting a proposal on counter terror financing and money laundering. However, there will be another meeting in June and failing to satisfy FAFT could result in Pakistan being put on the black list alongside side North Korea and Iran.

The Pakistani government has let the situation regarding terrorism spiral out of control. Years of ignoring terror groups like LeT and doing relatively little to combat groups like the TTP has put them in the position of being put on FATF’s black list.