Kabul: The Afghan Taliban-supported group, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is posing a severe challenge to Pakistan and newly appointed army Chief General Asim Munir as he failed to tackle the militant group since the banned outfit called off the ceasefire, Sergio Restelli writes in The Times of Israel.

Army Chief Munir's appointment came at such time when TTP called off the ceasefire. Since the called-off was announced in November, a total of over 150 attacks took place, including the Peshawar mosque attack which took more than 100 lives and challenged the army leadership struggling to bring in a semblance of unity and pride back among the rank-and-file.

Munir's challenge is not only limited to the TTP's issue but also to carry the baggage of the past occupant of GHQ Rawalpindi-General Bajwa who spent more time in politicking than protecting Pakistan's critical interests along the Durand Line.

Failed talks with militant groups have angered the people of the affected region who blame the army, and the federal government, for going soft on the militant groups. Given the army's continuous propensity to open a dialogue with the militant group and its patron, Afghan Taliban, there is widespread scepticism about the army's commitment to root out TTP from the tribal areas. Many believe that the problem was the creation of the army to deflect public attention from its role in dragging the country down, according to The Times of Israel.

When TTP began to move into settled areas in Pakistan early last year, residents sought the army's help in vain. With the army battling its political battles, the militant group expanded fast and people came out into the streets as anger against the federal government's neglect of the threat boiled up. The army had little interest in stemming the tide of militancy in the tribal areas and dismissed public outcry. The DG, ISI, was keener on finding a way to settle TTP militants in the area or to negotiate with them. The area was under TTP terror till 2019 when the army last time pushed the militants away through a military offensive.

With former Army chief General Javed Bajwa and his ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, more interested in basking in the glory of bringing the Afghan Taliban to Kabul, militant groups like TTP enjoyed the freedom to regroup, rearm, realign and return to their traditional stronghold in Pakistan-the tribal areas bordering the Durand Line. The group had access to weapons left behind by the US-led western forces in Afghanistan. Recruits were easy to come by and so was money from smuggling, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. The group was a key ally of the Afghan Taliban in their military victory and therefore enjoyed protection when Pakistan began to seek first negotiation, then control and finally, now, desperately seeking a strong deterrent action against them.

The Afgjhjan Taliban is using the TTP as a strategic tool as they are in fear that Pakistan could ditch them for US interest. A similar incident was witnessed at the time when al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by a US drone and has strengthened the Taliban's fears of Pakistan's deceit. The attack could not have been possible without Pakistan's direct or indirect assistance, reported The Times of Israel.

The TTP, on its part, is also playing a clever game. The Afghan Taliban comprises many groups, chiefly the Haqqani group and the Kandahar group, the two jockeying for total control of Afghanistan. The TTP works on these divisions to its advantage, switching allegiance to protect its interests.