On 29 July 2011 the United Nations placed sanctions on the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) due to its links with al-Qa`ida. The U.N. Security Council’s al-Qa`ida Sanctions Committee added the TTP to a blacklist that already included two of the group’s leaders leaders, Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali ur Rahman. The TTP’s designation under U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1267 is important because it requires that all 193 member states freeze assets, and restrict the travel and arms trade of the group and affiliated individuals.
The international community has recently ratcheted up the pressure against the TTP because of its ties with al-Qa`ida and its global jihadist ideology. For example, the United States banned the group back in September 2010 when Amb. Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, characterized the group as “very much part of the most dangerous terrorist threat that the United States faces…The TTP and al-Qa`ida have a symbiotic relationship: TTP draws ideological guidance from al-Qa`ida, while al-Qa`ida relies on the TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border…This mutual cooperation gives TTP access to both al-Qa`ida’s global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members…TTP is a force multiplier for al-Qa`ida.” Britain moved to ban the group last January and Canada banned the group earlier this month.
Formed in 2007 under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP is an alliance of violent extremist groups based in northwestern Pakistan. Although the TTP’s initial goals were local and regional (e.g. resisting Pakistani forces in the tribal areas and NATO forces in Afghanistan and enforcing Sharia in areas under its control), it has since demonstrated an increasingly global jihadist posture – in line with that of al-Qa`ida – in its words and actions. This global jihadist trend – exemplified in the group’s involvement in the attempted bombing of New York City’s Times Square – has brought the group under international scrutiny, culminating in last week’s UN designation.
Let’s take a look at the group’s recent activities that demonstrate TTP’s alignment with al-Qa`ida and its global jihadist ideology.
The TTP’s official statement following the death of Usama bin Ladin said, “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan share the same common goal. No one can disunite them…Based upon this, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has announced that they will seek revenge, and through operations carried out against this government’s secret agencies, they have proved true to their intent.”
TTP spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan also released a statement in which he asserted, “al-Qa`ida is not only close to [the] TTP but to every Mujahid and we will avenge him together. If none other help us in avenging his death, we will do it alone.”
In addition to attacks on Pakistani forces, the TTP has attempted and executed several attacks against U.S. interests in the region and the homeland. Below are a few recent examples:
- In February 2010 TTP bombing in northwest Pakistan kills three U.S. soldiers.
- TTP attempted to storm U.S. consulate in Peshawar in April 2010.
- Faisal Shehzad attempted bombing of Times Square in New York City in May 2010
- In October 2010 the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack on NATO oil tankers in Sindh.
- In May 2011 the TTP attacked a U.S. consulate envoy in Peshawar.
The TTP and its activities have been mentioned periodically in al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) English-language magazine Inspire. In fact, the most recent issue contained a one-page advertisement (see below) that gives “special thanks” to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan “for taking revenge on behalf of Usama bin Ladin.” This issue also profiles a TTP commander commenting on the death of bin Ladin (see below). Previous issues of Inspire magazine have included several inserts quoting and picturing Faisal Shehzad (see below), the man who attempted to bomb Times Square.
Also, @IbnSiqilli has done some great work on how the TTP’s recent media activities demonstrate the group’s growing connections to the global jihadist movement. Check out his recent blog post and Foreign Policy article on this issue.
TTP Coverage in Inspire Magazine
With Ramadan just around the corner, over one billion Muslims around the world will turn their focus to religious reflection, fasting, and charitable donations to alleviate the suffering of the poverty-stricken and hungry. While most of these donations are intended for and received by legitimate recipients, abuse of the charitable sector remains a source of income and community support for violent extremists groups around the world.
Charity abuse is especially a problem in Pakistan, where the banned group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) – responsible for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai – continues to operate its charitable arm with little hindrance across the country. It seems that the ban has had little effect on the group other than forcing it to make multiple name changes to avoid prosecution. Known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), LeT’s charitable arm also operates as Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). The U.S. State Department and Treasury have designated Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (and its aliases to include FIF) a terrorist organization.
To demonstrate the extent of the impunity with which the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation operates, you need only to navigate your web browser to the group’s website. On its website visitors will find three new flyers posted in preparation for Ramadan 2011.
The three flyers (pictured below) cover information regarding the projects that FIF plans to undertake, lists of needs, as well as how and why one can and should contribute to the group. For example, the first two flyers enumerate the services that FIF is planning such as medical centers, ambulance service, and water projects. They also list the amount of money the group needs for these projects.
Also, the first flyer encourages donors to give during Ramadan, citing hadith it states that the Prophet Muhammad was known to give generously to the needy during Ramadan. Next, specifically for Ramadan, flyer three indicates that FIF is accepting donations to pay for the suhoor (daily pre-fast meal) and iftaar (breaking of the daily fast) for those that cannot afford it. The flyer states that donors can pay for someone’s iftaar with a donation of Rs. 1,800 and a Rs. 3,000 donation can cover both iftaar and suhoor.
Lastly, all three flyers provide address, phone number, website, email address, and instructions for writing a bank draft to “Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation.”
Unfortunately, the problem is not as simple as shutting down FIF. First, there remains a lack of clarity on the relationship between Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment and LeT (and its aliases). A true severance of ties between the “establishment” and LeT (and its aliases) is a critical first step. Next, Pakistan is plagued with weak public institutions, corrupt leadership, and is crippled by a lack of functioning infrastructure. The combination of these factors severely limits the ability of the state to provide key services for much of its population, especially those in the rural areas in Pakistan’s north and northwest. For this reason, in addition to pushing for shutting down FIF, the U.S. must work with the Pakistani government, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations to ensure viable alternatives to FIF exist.