Authorities in northwestern Pakistan said Thursday that a predawn militant assault on a police outpost and subsequent roadside bomb blast had killed four police officers and wounded six others.
The deadly violence occurred in Lakki Marwat district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan.
A provincial police statement said that militants raided a security outpost in the area, injuring six security forces. It added that a nearby police station had quickly dispatched reinforcements to respond to the attack when their vehicle was blown up on the way by an “improvised explosive device.” The ensuing blast killed four officers.
The Pakistani Taliban took responsibility for what it claimed was a coordinated gun and bomb assault. The outlawed group, known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, has intensified attacks, killing hundreds of people in recent months, mostly security forces.
The insurgent violence has resurged since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, as all U.S. and NATO troops withdrew from the country after two decades of involvement in the Afghan war.
Pakistan has maintained fugitive TTP leaders operate out of their Afghan bases. Officials say the militants have enjoyed “greater operational freedom” since the Taliban took control of the war-torn country.
The Pakistani Taliban, an offshoot and a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, is also designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and Britain.
Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif claimed last week that some of the weaponry the withdrawing U.S.-led coalition troops left behind in Afghanistan had surfaced in his country, further arming TTP and other insurgents.
“They have sophisticated weapons. There is no doubt about it. They have night vision devices,” Asif told a small group of reporters last Friday without elaborating.
Pakistani security forces have lately reported coming under increased nighttime raids by TTP insurgents and suffering heavy casualties eventually.
A recent counterterrorism department assessment of new TTP propaganda videos has found insurgents carrying U.S.-made weapons, such as M4 carbines with Trijicon ACOG scopes, M16A4 assault rifles with Pulsar Apex XD50 thermal scopes, and M82 semi-automatic anti-material sniper rifles with a range of up to 1.8 kilometers.
“These weapons were not secured and ended up in Afghanistan’s weapons black market,” according to a copy of the assessment seen by VOA. The weapons “allow TTP militants to target Pakistani security forces at night over long distances,” it noted.
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 then-insurgent Taliban nationwide attacks amid the foreign troop exit 19 months ago, the U.S. Department of Defense estimated in a report released in August.
“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.
Islamabad has been demanding the new rulers in Kabul evict or rein in TTP activities. Instead, the de facto Afghan authorities brokered and hosted peace talks between Pakistani government officials and the TTP, but the process collapsed in November.
The recent spike in violence prompted Asif to travel to Kabul last month at the head of a high-profile security delegation where they shared information about the TTP’s activities on Afghan soil, sources privy to the meeting told VOA.
Taliban hosts in the discussions agreed to disarm the insurgents and relocate them to northern Afghanistan from areas bordering Pakistan only if Islamabad bears the financial cost, sources said. Officials in both countries said no such discussions took place.
“They [the Taliban] have given us some suggestions to counter whatever TTP is doing in Pakistan,” Asif said while speaking on Friday. He did not share further details, saying the two sides are in close contact to deal with the terrorism threat.
The International Crisis Group noted in a new report released this week that the TTP’s central command is based in Afghanistan and linked the rise in violence in Pakistan to the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
“With their ideological allies ensconced in power in Afghanistan, and U.S. and NATO forces gone, the Pakistani Taliban have been more capable of conducting operations across the porous mountain frontier between the two countries,” the ICG said.