While abruptly leaving Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden left huge volume of sophisticated military hardware comprising modern weapons, aircrafts, drones, tanks, combat vehicles and modern night vision devices, which have now fallen into the grips of jihadists, including Pakistani Taliban militants and are being used towards intensifying attacks targeting individuals, institutions, and law enforcement agencies.
According to intelligence reports, Islamabad, being plagued by an enormous economic crisis, plunging currency and political instability, is scrambling to contain its own Frankenstein – the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), a banned jihadist outfit. Emboldened by the Afghan Taliban’s victory against the United States and its Western allies, TTP has now undertaken a mission to expand Islamic sharia regime within Pakistan by occupying a larger part of Peshawar. With this mission, TTP is continuing terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, targeting civilian and law enforcement establishments.
The Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank, said TTP was responsible for 89 jihadist attacks across Pakistan in 2022, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. That was up slightly from 87 in 2021 despite a roughly four-month cease-fire with Islamabad that was scrapped by the militants late 2022.
In some of the attacks, Pakistani police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa determined that the TTP militants used advanced weapons and gadgets that had belonged to US or Afghan forces to carry out nighttime ambushes. After one such attack in the suburbs of Peshawar on January 14, Moazzam Jah Ansari, the provincial police chief at the time, revealed that the TTP had conducted a “coordinated” strike using high-tech equipment like thermal weapon sights.
According to the 2022 US Department of Defense report, US-funded military hardware valued at US$7.12 billion was in the possession of the former Afghan government when it fell to the Taliban in August 2021.
After February 2022 attacks on two Pakistani military camps in Balochistan province, Pakistan’s then-Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad also claimed that Baloch Liberation Army had used modern weapons left by the US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, although the Taliban regime in Kabul denied such claims.
In recent propaganda materials of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), it shows jihadists practicing with modern and sophisticated American weapons and military hardware. The military hardware includes M24 sniper rifles, M4 carbines with Trijicon ACOG scopes, and M16A4 rifles with thermal scopes. For a cash-strapped Pakistani law enforcement agency, this is a serious challenge.
Experts said, by using night vision devices TTP militants can see easily and target police personnel, performing their duties in the dark while policemen cannot see them coming.
In late January, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government provided a few dozen night vision devices to police in some volatile districts, in an attempt to counter raids under the cover of darkness. But resources are limited. Ihsan Ghani, a security expert and former provincial police chief told reporters that after declaring a successful crackdown on the TTP and other violent groups in 2017, the Pakistani state had reduced the funding and capacity-building of law enforcement agencies. He said, “Terrorism and counterterrorism measures are like quickly shifting sand”.
Meanwhile, security experts agreed that groups like TTP with sophisticated military hardware, surveillance equipment and night-vision devices would ultimately result in serious security threats to Pakistan.
Muhammad Feyyaz, a security expert and academic associated with the University of Management and Technology, Lahore, agreed that groups like the TTP are quick to adapt. Since 2002, militants in Pakistan have used weapons ranging from remote-controlled explosives, improvised explosive devices and suicide vests to Kalashnikov rifles and rockets.
Most disturbing fact here is, a segment of these sophisticated American military hardware is not shifting into the hands of jihadists in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as well as the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, which include long-range sniper rifles and night vision goggles. Usage of these sophisticated military hardware may result in increase of lethality and accuracy of the jihadist attacks in the respective areas.
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