Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
Participant in the War in North-West Pakistan, the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), and the Global War on Terrorism
Flag of Tehrik-i-Taliban.svg
Variant flag of the Islamic State.svg
Flags used by the Tehrik-i-Taliban[1]
ActiveDecember 2007 – present
IdeologyDeobandi fundamentalism[2][3][4][5]
LeadersBaitullah Mehsud  [6]
(2007-09)
Hakimullah Mehsud  [7][8]
(2009-13)
Maulana Fazlullah  [9]
(2013-18)
Noor Wali Mehsud
(since 2018)
HeadquartersAfghanistan[10][11][12][13]
Size
Allies
Opponent(s)
Battles and war(s)War in North-West Pakistan War in Afghanistan
Syrian Civil War
Designated as a terrorist organisation by
 Pakistan
 United States[23]
 Canada[24]
 United Kingdom[25]

Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP; Urdu: تحریک طالبان پاکستان‎, or the Taliban Movement in Pakistan), alternatively referred to as the Pakistani Taliban, is a radical terrorist armed group which is an umbrella organization of various militant groups based along the Afghan–Pakistani border. Most Taliban groups in Pakistan coalesce under the TTP.[26] In December 2007 about 13 groups united under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud to form the Tehrik-i-Taliban.[6] Among the stated objectives of Tehrik-i-Taliban is resistance against the Pakistani state.[6][27] The TTP's aim is to overthrow the government of Pakistan by waging a terrorist campaign against the Pakistan armed forces and the state.[28] The TTP depends on the tribal belt along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border from which to draw its recruits. The TTP draws ideological guidance from al-Qaeda and maintains ties with al-Qaeda.[28]

Many of the militants belonging to the TTP were killed as result of the military operations conducted by the Pakistan Armed Forces to destroy TTP infrastructure and support in Pakistan. However, some of the TTP militants escaped into Afghanistan through the ungoverned areas of Afghanistan–Pakistan border.[29] In Afghanistan some of the TTP militants joined Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province while others remained part of the TTP.[30] As of 2019, there are around 3,000 to 4,000 TTP militants in Afghanistan, according to a United States Department of Defense report.[15]

.[31][32]

Mullah Fazlullah became the group's leader in late 2013. In the following year, the TTP fragmented into at least four groups, with the defections said to have left the group in considerable disarray.[9]

History

Roots and development

Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan

The roots of the TTP as an organization began in 2002 when the Pakistani military conducted incursions into the tribal areas to originally combat foreign (Afghan, Arab and Central Asian) militants fleeing from the war in Afghanistan into the neighbouring tribal areas of Pakistan.[33][34] A 2004 article by the BBC explains:

The military offensive had been part of the overall war against al-Qaeda. ... Since the start of the operation, the [Pakistani] military authorities have firmly established that a large number of Uzbek, Chechen and Arab militants were in the area. ... It was in July 2002 that Pakistani troops, for the first time in 55 years, entered the Tirah Valley in Khyber tribal agency. Soon they were in Shawal valley of North Waziristan, and later in South Waziristan. ... This was made possible after long negotiations with various tribes, who reluctantly agreed to allow the military's presence on the assurance that it would bring in funds and development work. But once the military action started in South Waziristan a number of Waziri sub-tribes took it as an attempt to subjugate them. Attempts to persuade them into handing over the foreign militants failed, and with an apparently mishandling by the authorities, the security campaign against suspected al-Qaeda militants turned into an undeclared war between the Pakistani military and the rebel tribesmen.[34]

Many of the TTP's leaders are veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan and have supported the fight against the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force by providing soldiers, training, and logistics.[27] In 2004 various tribal groups, as explained above, that would later form the TTP, effectively established their authority in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by concurrently engaging in military attacks and negotiating with Islamabad. By this time, the militants had killed around 200 rival tribal elders in the region to consolidate control.[6] Several Pakistani analysts also cite the inception of U.S. missile strikes in the FATA as a catalyzing factor in the rise of tribal militancy in the area. More specifically they single out an October 2006 strike on a madrassah in Bajaur that was run by the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi as a turning point.[35]

In December 2007, the existence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan was officially announced under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud.[6] It was formed in response to Pakistan military operation against Al-Qaeda militants in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2007.[28]

On 25 August 2008, Pakistan banned the group, froze its bank accounts and assets, and barred it from media appearances. The government also announced that bounties would be placed on prominent leaders of the TTP.[36]

In late December 2008 and early January 2009, Mullah Omar sent a delegation, led by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mullah Abdullah Zakir, to persuade leading members of the TTP to put aside differences and aid the Afghan Taliban in combating the American presence in Afghanistan.[27] Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and Maulavi Nazir agreed in February and formed the Shura Ittehadul Mujahideen (SIM), also transliterated as Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahideen and translated into English as the Council of United Mujahedeen.[27][37][38] In a written statement circulated in a one-page Urdu-language pamphlet, the three affirmed that they would put aside differences to fight American-led forces and reasserted their allegiance to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden.[27][37] However, the SIM did not last very long and collapsed shortly after its announcement.[35][39]

Threats beyond Pakistan border

Qari Mehsud indicated in a video recorded in April 2010 the TTP would make cities in the United States a "main target" in response to U.S. drone attacks on TTP leaders.[40] The TTP claimed responsibility for the December 2009 suicide attack on CIA facilities in Camp Chapman in Afghanistan, as well as the attempted bombing in Times Square in May 2010.[31][32][41][42][43]

In July 2012, the TTP threatened to attack Myanmar in the wake of sectarian violence against Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan state. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah demanded the Pakistani government sever relations with Myanmar and close the Burmese embassy in Islamabad, and warned of attacks against Burmese interests if no action was taken. While the TTP has been conducting an insurgency in Pakistan, its ability to expand operations to other countries has been questioned. This was a rare occasion in which it warned of violence in another country.[44][45]

Leadership crisis

In August 2009, a missile strike from a suspected U.S. drone killed Baitullah Mehsud. The TTP soon held a shura to appoint his successor.[46] Government sources reported that fighting broke out during the shura between Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman. While Pakistani news channels reported that Hakimullah had been killed in the shooting, Interior Minister Rehman Malik could not confirm his death.[47] On 18 August, Pakistani security officials announced the capture of Maulvi Omar, chief spokesperson of the TTP. Omar, who had denied the death of Baitullah, retracted his previous statements and confirmed the leader's death in the missile strike. He also acknowledged turmoil among TTP leadership following the killing.[48]

After Omar's capture, Maulana Faqir Mohammed announced to the BBC that he would assume temporary leadership of the TTP and that Muslim Khan would serve as the organization's primary spokesperson. He also maintained that Baitullah had not been killed, but rather was in bad health. Faqir further elaborated that decisions over leadership of the umbrella group would only be made in consultation and consensus with a variety of different TTP leaders. "The congregation of Taliban leaders has 32 members and no important decision can be taken without their consultation," he told the BBC.[49][50] He reported to the AFP that both Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman had approved his appointment as temporary leader of the militant group.[51] Neither militant had publicly confirmed Faqir's statement, and analysts cited by Dawn News believed the assumption of leadership actually indicated a power struggle.[52]

Two days later Faqir Mohammed retracted his claims of temporary leadership and said that Hakimullah Mehsud had been selected leader of the TTP.[53] Faqir declared that the 42-member shura had also decided that Azam Tariq would serve as the TTP's primary spokesperson, rather than Muslim Khan.[8]

Under the leadership of Hakimullah, the TTP intensified its suicide campaign against the Pakistani state and against civilian (particularly Shia, Ahmedi and Sufi) targets.[35]

Designation as a terrorist organization

On 1 September 2010, the United States designated the TTP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and identified Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali ur-Rehman as specially designated global terrorists. The designation of the TTP as an FTO makes it a crime to provide support or to do business with the group and also allows the U.S. to freeze its assets. The US State Department also issued a $5 million reward for information on the two individuals' locations.[23][54]

In January 2011, the British government moved to classify the TTP as a banned terrorist organization under its Terrorism Act 2000.[25]

In July 2011, the Canadian government also added the TTP to its list of banned terrorist organizations.[24]

Internal splits

In February 2014, a group of TTP jihadists under the lead of Maulana Umar Qasmi broke away from the organisation to form the Ahrar-ul-Hind, in protest against the TTP's negotiations with the Pakistan government.[55]

In May 2014 the Mehsud faction of the TTP defected from the main group to form a breakaway unit called Tehrik-i-Taliban South Waziristan led by Khalid Mehsud. The breakaway group was unhappy with the various activities of the TTP, saying in a statement "We consider kidnapping for ransom, extortion, damage to public facilities and bombings to be un-Islamic. Tehreek-e-Taliban Mehsud group believes in stopping the oppressor from cruelty, and supporting the oppressed."[56] The Mehsuds were widely seen as the most important group in the TTP and their loss was regarded as a major blow.[57] In February 2017, the TTP announced that the Mehsud faction had rejoined the group, following the "defection of the rogue elements to the rival parties".[58]

In August 2014, hardline elements of the TTP from four of the seven tribal districts formed a separate group called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, led by the Mohmand Agency commander Omar Khalid Khorosani,[59] after disagreeing with Fazlullah's order to fight the Pakistani Army's Operation Zarb-e-Azb offensive in the Tribal Areas.[60] However, in March 2015, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar's spokesman announced that they were rejoining the TTP.[61] Some Uzbek and Arab fighters previously working with the TTP reportedly began leaving Pakistan to go to Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In the same month, Asmatullah Muawiya, the commander of the Punjabi Taliban, announced that his faction was ending their armed struggle against the Pakistani state.[62]

In October 2014, the TTP's spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, and the group's commanders in Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber tribal regions and Peshawar and Hangu Districts defected from the TTP and pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).[63]

Organizational structure

Overview

The TTP differs in structure to the Afghan Taliban in that it lacks a central command and is a much looser coalition of various militant groups, united by hostility towards the central government in Islamabad.[64][65][66] Several analysts describe the TTP's structure as a loose network of dispersed constituent groups that vary in size and in levels of coordination.[35] The various factions of the TTP tend to be limited to their local areas of influence and often lack the ability to expand their operations beyond that territory.[67]

In its original form, the TTP had Baitullah Mehsud as its amir. He was followed in the leadership hierarchy by Hafiz Gul Bahadur as naib amir, or deputy. Faqir Mohammed was the third most influential leader.[6] The group contained members from all of FATA's seven tribal agencies as well as several districts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), including Swat, Bannu, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohistan, Buner, and Malakand.[6] Some 2008 estimates placed the total number of operatives at 30–35,000, although it is difficult to judge the reliability of such estimates.[33]

In the aftermath of Baitullah Mehsud's death, the organization experienced turmoil among its leading militants. By the end of August 2009, however, leading members in the TTP had confirmed Hakimullah Mehsud as its second amir. Government and some TTP sources told the media that Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in January 2010 by injuries sustained during a U.S. drone attack. Unconfirmed reports from Orakzai Agency stated, after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, Malik Noor Jamal, alias Maulana Toofan, had assumed leadership of the TTP until the group determined how to proceed.[68][69]

Reuters, citing a report from The Express Tribune, indicated in July 2011 that Hakimullah Mehsud's grip on the TTP leadership was weakening after the defection of Fazal Saeed Haqqani, the Taliban leader in the Kurram region, from the umbrella militant group. Haqqani cited disagreements over attacks on civilians as reason for the split. The paper quoted an associate of Mehsud's as saying that "it looks as though he is just a figurehead now... He can hardly communicate with his commanders in other parts of the tribal areas ... he is in total isolation. Only a few people within the TTP know where he is."[70] A December 2011 report published in The Express Tribune further described the network as "crumbling" with "funds dwindling and infighting intensifying." According to various TTP operatives, the difficulties stemmed from differences of opinion within TTP leadership on pursuing peace talks with Islamabad.[71] In December 2012 senior Pakistan military officials told Reuters that Hakimullah Mehsud had lost control of the group and that Wali-ur-Rehman was expected to be formally announced as the head of the TTP.[72] However a video released later in the month showed Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman seated next to each other, with Mehsud calling reports of a split between the two as propaganda.[73] Mehsud and Rahman were later killed in separate airstrikes in 2013.[74][75]

In February 2020, the TTP reported the deaths of four TTP senior leaders within a one week period.[76] All of these four leaders, among them former TTP deputy leader Sheikh Khalid Haqqani and Hakimullah Mehsud group leader Sheharyar Mehsud,[77][78] were killed within a month of each other as well.[76]

Current leaders

  • Noor Wali MehsudEmir (chief) of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.[79]
  • Mufti Hazrat – Naib emir (deputy chief) of TTP.[80]
  • Mangal Bagh – Head of Lashkar-e-Islam faction (based in Khyber Agency).[81]
  • Sheharyar Mehsud (alias Shahbaz) – Commander of North Waziristan TTP and chief of TTP's Hakimullah Mehusd group.[82][83] TTP later confirmed he was killed in a roadside blast in Kunar, Afghanistan in February 2020 and was succeeded by his lieutenant Maulana Wali Muhammad.[83][77]
  • Hafiz Gul Bahadur – Commander of a powerful militant faction based in North Waziristan and allied to TTP.[84]
  • Mansoor Mohmand – Mohmand Agency TTP.[85]
  • Sheikh Gul Muhammad – Bajaur Agency TTP.[86]
    • Bahawal Khan Wazir (alias Salahuddin Ayubi) – South Waziristan (Western Half[88]) – Successor of Maulvi Nazir.[89]
    • Asmatullah Muawiya – Leader of Punjabi Taliban.
      • Maulana Muhammad Ali Balti (alias Muhammad Khurasani alias Mufti Khalid) – Central spokesman of TTP (Fazlullah group).[91]
      • Salahuddin Ayubi – Spokesman for Lashkar-e-Islam (TTP faction based in Khyber Agency).[92]
      • Daud Mehsud (alias Haji Daud[93]) – Spokesman for North Waziristan TTP led by Sheharyar Mehsud.[94]
      • Rais Khan Mehsud (alias Azam Tariq[95]) – Spokesman for Mehsud Taliban (TTP splinter group led by Khalid Mehsud and based in South Waziristan).[96]
      • Ahmadullah Ahmadi – Spokesman for Hafiz Gul Bahadur group.[97]
      • Fahad Marwat – Spokesman for

        The TTP's "media arm" is "Umar Media".[99] Umar Media provides a "behind the scenes" look at Taliban attacks. Video clips are made in Pashto with Urdu subtitles.[100][101] Umar Media also reportedly operated a Facebook page which had been created in September 2012 and had a few "likes" and a "handful of messages written in English". According to then TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, the page was being "temporarily" used before the TTP would plan to launch its own website. SITE Intelligence Group described the Facebook page as a "recruitment center" looking for people to edit the TTP's quarterly magazine and videos.[102][103] The page was soon removed by Facebook and the account suspended.[103]

Relations with other militant groups

In a May 2010 interview, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus described the TTP's relationship with other militant groups as difficult to decipher: "There is clearly a symbiotic relationship between all of these different organizations: al-Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, TNSM [Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi]. And it's very difficult to parse and to try to distinguish between them. They support each other, they coordinate with each other, sometimes they compete with each other, [and] sometimes they even fight each other. But at the end of the day, there is quite a relationship between them."[31]

Director of National Intelligence and United States Navy Admiral, Dennis C. Blair, told U.S. senators that the Pakistani state and army meanwhile draw clear distinctions among different militant groups.[104] While links exist between the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, the two groups are distinct enough for the Pakistani military to be able to view them very differently.[105] American officials said that the S Wing of the Pakistani ISI provided direct support to three major groups carrying out attacks in Afghanistan: the Afghan Taliban based in Quetta, Pakistan, commanded by Mullah Muhammad Omar; the militant network run by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; and a different group run by the guerrilla leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, all considered a strategic asset by Pakistan in contrast to the TTP run by Hakimullah Mehsud, which has engaged the Pakistani army in combat.[104]

Afghan Taliban

The Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan differ greatly in their history, leadership and goals although they are both predominantly Pashtun.[64][65] The two groups are distinct, though linked, movements.[41][54] The two groups also don't get along with each other.[106] An Afghan Taliban spokesman told The New York Times: "We don't like to be involved with them, as we have rejected all affiliation with Pakistani Taliban fighters ... We have sympathy for them as Muslims, but beside that, there is nothing else between us."[27][107] Peshawar-based security analyst Brigadier (retd) Muhamaad Saad believes the Taliban are not a monolithic entity. "They can be divided into three broad categories: [Afghan] Kandahari Taliban, led by Mullah Omar; [Afghan] Paktia Taliban, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani; and [Pakistani] Salfi Taliban [TTP]," he said. "It's the Salfi Taliban who pose a real threat to Pakistan. They may not be obeying the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar."[108] Some regional experts state that the common name "Taliban" may be more misleading than illuminating. Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace believes that "[t]he fact that they have the same name causes all kinds of confusion."[64] As the Pakistani Army began offensives against the Pakistani Taliban, many unfamiliar with the region mistakenly thought that the assault was against the Afghan Taliban of Mullah Omar.[64]

The TTP has almost exclusively targeted elements of the Pakistani state.[31] The Afghan Taliban however have historically relied on support from the Pakistani army in their campaign to control Afghanistan.[35][109] Regular Pakistani army troops fought alongside the Afghan Taliban in the War in Afghanistan (1996–2001).[110] Major leaders of the Afghan Taliban including Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Siraj Haqqani are believed to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan.[111] In 2006, Jalaluddin Haqqani was called a 'Pakistani asset' by a senior official of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.[111] Pakistan regards the Haqqanis as an important force for protecting its interests in Afghanistan and therefore has been unwilling to move against them.[111]

In 2007, Pakistani militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud created the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and killed around 200 rival Pakistani leaders. They officially defined goals to establish their rule over Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas subsequently engaging the Pakistani army in heavy combat operations. Intelligence analysts believe that these TTP's attacks on the Pakistani government, police and army strained relations between the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban.[64] Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar asked the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in late 2008 and early 2009 to stop attacks inside Pakistan.

In February 2009, the three dominant Pakistani Taliban leaders agreed to put aside their differences to help counter a planned increase in American troops in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their allegiance to Mullah Omar (and to Osama bin Laden).[27] The agreement among the TTP leaders was short-lived, however, and instead of fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban the rival Pakistani factions soon engaged in combat with each other.[35][39]

Many Afghan Taliban officials (including Mullah Omar) resent TTP violent campaign against Pakistan. Afghan Talibans and TTP have also conducted attacks against each other. On 10 October 2013, heavily armed Afghan Talibans attacked TTP base in Kunar province of Afghanistan. The attacked resulted in death of three TTP commanders. However, TTP denied any losses.[112] Again on 25 June 2016, Afghan Talibans and TTP clashed with each other in the Kunar province of Afghanistan. Afghan defense ministry claims that eight TTP militants and six Afghan Talibans were killed in the clash.[113] Moreover, Some Sources also claim that TTP was behind the death of Nasiruddin Haqqani because TTP believed that Haqqani Network was behind the death of Hakimullah Mehsud as they disclosed whereabouts of Hakimullah Mehsud to US military in Afghanistan.[114][106]

Recently following the TTP's Peshawar school massacre, the leaders of the Afghan Taliban condemned the TTP's actions on the school, saying it was "Un-Islamic"[115] Future relations between the Afghan Taliban and TTP are unknown.

Cross-border controversy

In July 2011, after Pakistani missile attacks against Afghan provinces, Pakistani media reports alleged that senior Pakistani Taliban leaders were operating from Afghanistan to launch attacks against Pakistani border posts. According to the reports, Qari Zia-ur-Rahman hosted Faqir Muhammad in Kunar province while Sheikh Dost Muhammad, a local Afghan Taliban leader, hosted Maulana Fazlullah in Nuristan province. Faqir Muhammad, who claimed responsibility for a 4 July 2011 attack on a paramilitary checkpoint and for similar attacks in June 2011 on several border villages in Bajaur, stated during a radio broadcast, "Our fighters carried out these two attacks from Afghanistan, and we will launch more such attacks inside Afghanistan and in Pakistan." Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid strongly rejected the reports and denied the possibility of Pakistani Taliban setting up bases in Afghan Taliban-controlled areas.[116][117] Tameem Nuristani, Governor of Afghanistan's Nuristan Province, told The Express Tribune that while the "Afghan Taliban have never carried out cross-border attacks in Pakistan," TTP militants may have "safe-havens" in Kunar and Nuristan in "areas where the government's writ does not exist".[108]

In June 2012 a spokesman from the TTP's Malakand division revealed to The Express Tribune that TTP militants "regularly move across the porous border" to stage attacks against Pakistan but had only been in Afghanistan for a few months previously, contrary to Pakistani claims that the TTP had long used Afghan territory as a staging ground.[118]

Both governments blame the other for harboring Taliban militants along the shared border.[119] In 2009 Pakistan launched offensives to force the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan from its territory in South Waziristan.[120] Some analysts say the fighting pushed TTP militants to the Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, where they have regrouped to threaten Pakistani border regions.[121] The Pakistani military claims "scanty presence" of NATO and Afghan forces along the border has enabled militants to use these areas as safe havens and launch repeated attacks inside Pakistan.[121] Afghan officials state that the withdrawal of US forces out of parts of Kunar province beginning in 2010 created a power vacuum that militants filled.[122] They point to the fact that the Afghan state in some areas has little control due to its war against the Afghan Taliban which are supported by Pakistan according to many international and Afghan institutions, analysts and officials.[105][123] Pakistan vehemently denies this claim,[124] although some Afghan Taliban commanders stated that their training was indeed overseen by "ISI officers in a camp in Pakistan" and that they were being armed by Pakistan to fight the Afghan state and international troops in Afghanistan.[125][126]

Recently following the TTP's Peshawar school massacre Afghan taliban leader's condemned the TTP's actions on the school, saying it was "Un-Islamic".[115]

Al-Qaeda

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has close ties to Al Qaeda, sharing money and bomb experts and makers. John Brennan, President Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, said: "It's a group that is closely allied with al-Qaeda. They train together, they plan together, they plot together. They are almost indistinguishable."[127] Ambassador-at-large Daniel Benjamin stated, "The T.T.P. and Al Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship: T.T.P. draws ideological guidance from Al Qaeda, while Al Qaeda relies on the T.T.P. for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border... This mutual cooperation gives T.T.P. access to both Al Qaeda's global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members. Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, T.T.P. is a force multiplier for Al Qaeda."[54] Ayesha Siddiqa of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars describes the TTP as "a franchise of al Qaeda" and attributes strong ties to al-Qaeda's acquisition of "a more local character over the years."[65] Since the days of the Soviet era, some al-Qaeda operatives have established themselves in Pashtun areas and enmeshed themselves in the local culture.[66]

In 2008 Baitullah Mehsud met with Ayman al-Zawahiri in South Waziristan. Prior to this meeting the Pakistani Taliban answered to the Afghan Taliban and pro-Pakistan militant commanders. At the time Pakistani authorities believed that Mehsud was in fact an al-Qaeda operative.[67] In February 2009 Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulavi Nazir released a statement in which they reaffirmed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden.[27][37]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

According to United Nation report, ISIS core leadership continue to send funds to TTP in Afghanistan despite its depleted resources in heartland in Iraq and Syria. The report claims that without those funds, ISIS will cease to exist in Afghanistan.[21]

According to Borhan Osman, a senior analyst at International Crisis Group (ICG), the Islamic State (IS) fighters who started the ISIS-K branch of ISIS were TTP militants who had long settled in Afghanistan. He claims that many members of the TTP fled Pakistan and went to seek refuge in Afghanistan as a result of military operations conducted by Pakistan security forces. In Afghanistan, National Directorate of Security (NDS) tried to persuade them to fight against Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. Initially, only few of them fought against Pakistan and Afghan Talibans. However, after that TTP members in Afghanistan changed their allegiance to ISIS-K. Initially, because of their good relations with Afghan armed forces, the locals in Afghanistan thought that they were pro-Afghan government forces based. They also claimed that they were there to fight Afghan Talibans and Pakistan. However, after series of events, ISIS-K also turned hostile towards to Afghan government and locals.[19]

Ghazi Abdul Rashid Shaheed Brigade

The Ghazi Abdul Rashid Shaheed Brigade, whose name is commonly shortened to Ghazi Brigade or Ghazi Force, emerged as a jihadi organization after the Lal Masjid Operation of 2007. In 2009 the Ghazi Brigade worked closely with the TTP during military operations in the Swat Valley, and the two groups jointly planned attacks on western targets in Islamabad.[128][129]

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

The TTP and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) have a long history of collaboration. At one point prior to his appointment as TTP chief, Baitullah Mehsud lived with Tohir Yo'ldosh, the IMU's former leader, who became an ideological inspiration and offered the services of his 2,500 fighters to Mehsud.[130] In April 2009 Muslim Khan listed the IMU among the TTP's allies in an interview with AP.[107] The IMU posted a video online in September 2010 that featured footage of Yo'ldosh's successor, Abu Usman Adil, meeting with Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur Rahman Mehsud.[131] On 8 June 2014, the TTP accepted responsibility for conducting the Jinnah International Airport attack. The militants who participated in the attack were Uzbeks belonging to the IMU, and the TTP described the attack as a joint operation between TTP and IMU.[132]

Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab (Urdu/Punjabi/Saraiki: تحریک طالبان پنجاب‎), alternatively called the Punjabi Taliban, was a network of members of banned militant groups based in South Punjab, the southernmost region of Pakistan's most populous Punjab province. The group was disbanded in September 2014 and is no longer active.[133][134] Major factions of the so-called Punjabi Taliban include operatives of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan and Jaish-e-Muhammad, who have previously supported the Kashmir insurgency against India in Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed territory administered by India that is claimed by Pakistan. TTP has significant recruits from Punjab-based sectarian organizations also called Punjabi Taliban.[135] The Punjabi Taliban have reportedly developed strong connections with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and various other groups based in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).[136][137] It has increasingly provided the foot-soldiers for violent acts and has played an important role in attacking Ahmedi, Shia, Sufi and other civilian targets in the Punjab.[35][138]

The term "Punjabi Taliban" is politically sensitive among Pakistanis,[35] given that Punjabis are the largest ethnic group in the country and have historically been disassociated with the Taliban, an organisation that has Afghan and Pashtun roots. Although the Punjabi Taliban are claimed and believed to be an established militant group, the Government of Punjab has denied and rejected their existence.[139] Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab Chief Minister, has claimed that the term Punjabi Taliban is "an insult to the Punjabis" and accuses that it was coined by Rehman Malik purposely on ethnic grounds.[140] During a 17 March 2010 cabinet meeting Malik confirmed that Punjabi militants had joined Waziristan-based Taliban to stage attacks inside Punjab.[137] Georgetown University's C. Christine Fair writes that "the movement is composed of Pashtuns and Punjabis, among other Pakistani and even foreign elements."[35]

The Lahore police accused them of being responsible for the 3 March 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.[141]

The group also claimed the 2009 Lahore bombing shortly after the attack, although the attack was also claimed by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,[142] and the May 2010 attacks on Ahmadi mosques in Lahore which were aimed at the Ahmadi minority sect.[143]

Pamphlets found at the scene of the March 2011 assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti implicated the Punjabi Taliban.[138][144]

On 24 August 2013, a spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed that the head of the Punjabi Taliban faction, Asmatullah Muawiya, had been stripped of his leadership for welcoming the Pakistani government's peace talks offer. Muawiya responded by saying that the Taliban central shura (council) did not have the capacity to remove him because the Punjabi Taliban is a separate group. He added that his group has its own decision-making body to decide leadership and other matters.[145] On 13 September 2014, Muawiya announced that their faction was ending their armed struggle to implement sharia within Pakistan, however it would continue armed struggle in Afghanistan. He urged other warring groups to end violence in Pakistan.[133][134]

They are closely related as they operate close to each other

Other groups

US officials admitted to The New York Times that they found it increasingly difficult to separate the operations of the various Pakistani militant groups active in the tribal areas of Pakistan.[32] Individuals and groups that are believed to have a supportive relationship with the TTP include: