Monday, June 17, 2024

Pakistani FM threatens Afghan Taliban with counterterrorism operation

Islamabad retains the option of launching a counterterrorism operation inside Afghanistan if the Taliban government fails to take action against terrorists operating along its borders, Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has warned.

Bilawal told local media on Wednesday that his country would have the full right under international law to act in self-defense should militants from Afghanistan continue carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

He pointed to a quantitative increase in terror attacks in Pakistan since the Taliban came into power and noted that the weapons left in Afghanistan by US and NATO forces after their chaotic withdrawal had fallen into the hands of militants.

Bilawal’s warning comes after the extremist ISIS-K group, which is based in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack that rocked the city of Bajaur on Sunday. A suicide bomber detonated explosives at an election campaign rally for a pro-Taliban cleric, killing at least 63 people and injuring nearly 200.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, there have been a total of 237 terrorist attacks in Pakistan this year, which have claimed the lives of 151 civilians and 329 security personnel.

Despite Islamabad’s frustration, Bilawal stressed that a counterterrorism operation should not be the first option for his government and urged Kabul to adhere to the Doha Accord, under which the Taliban pledged to block militant groups from entering Afghanistan and from attacking other countries from inside its territory.

“If we are repeatedly attacked like this, and there is no appropriate response, we will be forced to do this. But I don’t think it should be amongst the first options for us,” Bilawal added.

The official also stated that Islamabad could consider cooperating with the Taliban on dealing with the militants if Kabul asked for help. He insisted, however, that Pakistan would prefer that Afghanistan’s interim government dealt with the issue on its own.

Bilawal’s warning was echoed by Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who claimed militants were finding sanctuaries in Afghanistan and urged the Taliban to “undertake concrete measures toward denying their soil be used for transnational terrorism.”

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