In a tragic incident near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, at least 23 Pakistani soldiers were killed and dozens of others injured in a recent militant attack. But here’s the catch: The militants were reportedly armed with high-tech US weaponry.
A car carrying explosives crashed into the building in the early hours of the incident in the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, close to the Afghan border. A militant group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tahreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP), has since claimed responsibility for the attack. The Pakistani army was utilizing the facility as a base camp.
The army added in a statement that multiple militants tried to infiltrate the Dera Ismail Khan district compound before the truck rammed it but were unsuccessful. The group then crashed another truck packed with explosives into the boundary wall of the facility, and a suicide bombing followed, bringing the building down.
A video was published on social media, allegedly by the Tahreek-e-Jihad Pakistan itself. Interestingly, military watchers, following the developments, noted that the militants used night vision goggles reportedly left behind by the US forces on their withdrawal from Afghanistan to take precision hits on Pakistani forces, who were left puzzled about the source of the fire.
Although these claims have not been independently verified or officially acknowledged by the Pakistani military, there have been several instances where militant organizations have made use of US weapons to carry out fatal attacks against Pakistani troops.
Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) has released a video of attack on Pakistani forces in Dera Ismail Khan
— THE ANALYTICS POST (@THEANALYTICSPO1) December 13, 2023
Pakistan’s acting prime minister, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, said in September this year that American military hardware abandoned in Afghanistan following the US pullout has ended up in the hands of extremists and is now in the hands of the Pakistani Taliban.
He observed that the equipment, which consists of a wide range of items from night vision goggles to rifles, was “emerging as a new challenge” for Islamabad because it had significantly improved the Pakistani Taliban’s fighting capability.
These assertions come at a time when attacks on Pakistan’s security forces have become more intense in recent months by the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, and their affiliated groups like the Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan.
It is almost ironic that the Pakistani military, which has traditionally been an ally of the United States and received arms from Washington for several years, is now being targeted by American weapons. More noteworthy is that there is hardly anything that the United States could do about it.
Indian Army veteran and military commentator Maj Gen Harsha Kakar (Retd) told EurAsian Times, “Weapons left behind are available to those who are either associates of the Taliban or can pay for it. There were also reports of Humvees moving to Pakistan. We must also note that the Afghan army had the same equipment. The availability of US weapons has enhanced the capabilities of the TTP, adding to Pakistan’s problems. The US no longer takes responsibility for what happens to their stockpiles. They did destroy their heavy equipment, though.”
Approximately US$7 billion worth of military hardware, including weapons, armored vehicles, and communications equipment, was left behind when the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in 2021. During this chaotic American pullout from Afghanistan, the Taliban took control of the weapons as the Western-backed Afghan government fell.
Some of these weapons made their way to the Pakistan Taliban, which has been emboldened after the takeover of the Afghanistan Taliban. Experts have noted that the TTP’s access to advanced combat weapons has had a “terrifying” effect on Pakistan, particularly on the police force, which is underequipped as opposed to the Pakistani military.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the province in northwest Pakistan that has been hit hardest by the TTP attacks. A Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police officer told Radio Free Europe that they were just sitting ducks for these militants who came bearing advanced American weapons.
Pakistan Vows Retaliation
Pakistan is reportedly considering a “tit-for-tat” retaliation to Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Dera Ismail Khan, which was the bloodiest against security personnel in years and resulted in the deaths of over two dozen troops.
Pakistan is expected to take some “drastic and decisive” measures against the terrorist group responsible for the incident if the reports are to be believed. “Pakistan will not let go the perpetrators of this heinous attack unpunished,” the sources familiar with the development said.
Even though Pakistan sent the Afghan Taliban a strong warning last month to close terrorist havens, the incident in DI Khan nevertheless took place. Following the Bannu attack, the Afghan government was informed that Pakistan would take decisive action in the event of another terrorist incident involving ties to the neighboring nation.
The sources claimed that while Pakistan has been silent regarding potential ways to exact revenge for the DI Khan killings, drone strikes and cross-border raids that target terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan are both on the table.
Pakistan regards the most recent attack as a grave provocation and will ensure that those responsible bear the consequences.
The Afghan government has received repeated calls from Islamabad to act against the TTP and its affiliates. To convey Pakistan’s firm demarche, the foreign secretary summoned the chargé d’affaires of the provisional Afghan government a few hours after the incident.
“The attack, whose responsibility has been claimed by Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan, a terrorist group affiliated with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, resulted in multiple causalities, including shahadat of 23 security personnel,” according to the Foreign Office statement.
The chargé d’affaires was requested to promptly inform the interim Afghan government to conduct a thorough investigation and impose strict penalties on those responsible for the most recent attack.
The highest level of public condemnation of the terrorist incident was expected, along with immediate and verifiable measures against all terrorist groups (including their leadership) and their havens.
Additionally, the capture of the attack perpetrators and the surrender of the TTP leadership in Afghanistan to the Pakistani government and all necessary steps were requested to prevent the terrorists from using Afghan soil in the future to commit acts of terror against Pakistan.