Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
If you’re new to the newsletter or haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.
TTP gains strength from Afghan Taliban victory
Daud Khattak reports on how the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan has strengthened its Pakistani Taliban allies. The two militant groups share a hard-line Islamist ideology and longstanding relations that have been forged through common struggle.
The Tehrek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has intensified its attacks against Pakistani security forces after peace talks facilitated by the Afghan Taliban broke down in December. The extremist group is responsible for most of the nearly 300 attacks that killed 395 people last year in Pakistan.
“The group’s change in focus and rhetoric coupled with the sanctuaries at its disposal in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime makes the TTP a long-term threat for Pakistan,” said Abdul Basit, a Pakistani counterterrorism expert.
In a sign that Islamabad is targeting TTP safe havens in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said a former TTP spokesman was shot and killed in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province. The militant group confirmed Khalid Balti had been killed.
The TTP’s increased attacks in northwestern Pakistan, its former stronghold, have dashed the hopes of civilians who have called for a negotiated end to the conflict. Civilians have borne the brunt of TTP attacks and clashes between the militants and Pakistani forces.
“The real problem is that the government and the TTP want to secure their own interests,” said Abdul Salam, a tribal leader in South Waziristan. “The result is trouble and destruction for the common people.”
Taliban’s tense relations with Central Asia
Bruce Pannier writes about the increasingly complicated and fragile relations between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors.
Since the beginning of the year, Tajikistan has accused the Taliban of amassing “terrorists” along its border with Afghanistan. Uzbekistan temporarily reduced its electricity supply to Afghanistan this week after the Taliban demanded Tashkent and Dushanbe hand over a group of Afghan pilots and the Afghan Air Force planes they flew across the border to escape the militants’ takeover.
Even Turkmenistan, a country keen on maintaining neutrality, has been the target of the Taliban’s fury and ridicule.
“The first days of 2022 are another reminder to the Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan that they are dealing with a militant group, not politicians,” Pannier writes.
Prosecutors at risk of revenge attacks
I write about Moshtari Danesh, who overcame a crippling disability and gender discrimination to get an education and land her dream job as a prosecutor in Afghanistan. But since the Taliban takeover, she has been barred from working.
As a prosecutor, Danesh faces constant danger. “Prosecutors have had to change residences so that the convicts the Taliban freed could not find us,” she said. "We are now permanently living in hiding, and even our families cannot move freely."
Several prosecutors, judges, and lawyers have been killed in recent months. Others have been attacked or threatened. Western nations have evacuated and granted asylum to hundreds of judicial workers from Afghanistan. But for the thousands who remain trapped in Afghanistan, particularly women, the future is bleak.
Fatana Mohammadi, a lawyer, was attacked by an unidentified man in broad daylight at her home in Kabul last month. “He shot at me once, but I was able to dodge the bullet by throwing a blanket over him,” Mohammadi told Radio Azadi. “After that, his gun jammed."
Iran’s mistreatment of Afghans
In this video report, we look at how Iran is deporting a record number of Afghans, many of whom are fleeing repression and hunger.
Tehran expels around 3,000 Afghans each day. The estimated 3 million documented and undocumented Afghan refugees who remain in Iran face widespread discrimination and abuse.
“They detained us and held us at the border,” one refugee told Radio Farda. “They kept us in cold barracks for a week and beat us so we don't come back.”
I hope you found this week’s newsletter useful, and I encourage you to forward it to your colleagues.
P.S.: You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.