Pakistan Blames ‘Rushed’ US Troop Exit for Terror Resurgence
Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister has stated that militant groups are carrying out frequent and more lethal attacks on his country’s security forces because they are using the military equipment left behind by the United States in Afghanistan.
The assertions by Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar came as militant ambushes and raids against Pakistani military and police forces become daily occurrences, particularly in districts near or along the Afghan border.
The violence has killed hundreds of security forces — including more than 200 military officers and soldiers — in the first eight months of 2023.
“The reason for the recent resurgence of terrorism being witnessed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan is, unfortunately, an outcome of the rushed military withdrawal by the U.S. and NATO allies,” Kakar said in comments aired Friday on state television.
The prime minister referred to the two Pakistani provinces lining the country’s 2,600-kilometer border with Afghanistan. He spoke to local media representatives in Islamabad on a day when a suicide bomber struck a military convoy in the Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killing nine soldiers and wounding several others.
“The rushed withdrawal has had an impact not just on Pakistan but also on Central Asia, China, Iran, and the whole region,” Kakar said.
‘They can now target my soldier’
Kakar stated that Pakistani leaders had long unsuccessfully persuaded the U.S. to stage a “responsible withdrawal” to ensure their war equipment was accounted for and beyond the reach of terrorist groups.
Kakar claimed that anti-state groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, and ethnic Baluch insurgents committing terrorist acts in his country have now armed themselves with thermal weapons, assault rifles, night vision goggles, and other equipment that U.S. troops left.
“This equipment has greatly enhanced the fighting capacity of terrorists and non-state actors in the region,” Kakar said. “Previously, they had minimal capacity, but they can now target my soldier even if he moves his finger.”
Washington and allied nations chaotically pulled out all their troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 after almost two decades of counterinsurgency operations. The then-Taliban insurgents retook control of the war-shattered country from a U.S.-backed Afghan government two weeks before the foreign troops withdrew.
More than $7.1 billion in U.S.-funded military equipment was in the inventory of the former Afghan government when it collapsed in the face of insurgent Taliban nationwide attacks amid the foreign troop exit, the U.S. Defense Department estimated in a report released last year.
“The U.S. military removed or destroyed nearly all major equipment used by U.S. troops in Afghanistan throughout the drawdown period in 2021,” the report said. It also says other equipment was disabled so that it could no longer be used.
Terror activity increased, says Pakistan
Pakistan complains that terrorist activity has sharply risen since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan two years ago.
Islamabad says the power shift in Kabul has emboldened fugitive TTP leaders and other insurgent groups sheltering on Afghan soil to move with “greater freedom” to orchestrate cross-border attacks.
Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have rejected allegations anyone is being allowed to use the country to threaten other nations, including Pakistan. They also deny charges that U.S. weapons seized by the Taliban have left the country.
Earlier this year, an Israeli commander told Newsweek magazine on condition of anonymity that U.S. small arms capture in Afghanistan had ended up with Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip.
“The truth is that after the expulsion of the foreign forces [from Afghanistan] and full control of the Islamic Emirate, equipment, and vehicles are stored and saved in depots, and no one is allowed to smuggle or sell even a single weapon,” chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on X, formerly Twitter, last July.
Mujahid responded to a report published by the Geneva-based independent Small Arms Survey warning that the TTP and other militants continue to have access to weapons of U.S.-trained and -equipped former Afghan security forces.