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Pakistan: US military equipment left behind in Afghanistan falls into militant hands

Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister says the US military equipment left behind during the withdrawal from Afghanistan has fallen into militant hands and ultimately made its way to the militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group. 

Speaking to a select group of journalists at his office Monday in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said there was a need to adopt a “coordinated approach” to tackling the challenge of the leftover equipment.

The equipment — which includes a wide variety of items, from night vision goggles to firearms — is now “emerging as a new challenge” for Islamabad as it has enhanced the fighting capabilities of the Pakistani Taliban, the premier added.

The remarks come as TTP have over the past months intensified attacks on Pakistan’s security forces. They are a separate militant group but an ally of the Afghan Taliban.

Some security sources in Islamabad say the TTP either bought the equipment from the Afghan Taliban or was given it as an ally. They say TTP fighters now target Pakistani troops from a distance, while before their only weapons were AK-47 assault rifles.

The Pakistani Taliban have also released statements and video clips in recent months, claiming they possess, for example, guns with laser and thermal sighting systems.

Still, Pakistani security forces will continue to fight militants “to defend our home, children, mosques and places of worship,” Kakar said.

Kakar, 52, was sworn in last month as Pakistan’s youngest prime minister to head a caretaker government. His Cabinet will run day-to-day affairs until the next parliamentary elections.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Kakar ruled out any talks between the government and the TTP since the militants unilaterally broke off a cease-fire last November.

The outlawed TTP has a strong presence in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the region close to the Afghan border.  It is allied with the Afghan Taliban. The 2021 Afghan Taliban takeover has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban, who have stepped up attacks since then. The military in recent weeks has also carried out multiple raids on militant hideouts in the northwest.

Over the past years, the TTP militants have been involved in multiple terrorist attacks, including targeted bombings and killings of members of religious communities and security officials across the country.

On December 16, 2014, the group attacked Peshawar’s Army School, where more than 150 people, mostly children, were killed, one of the deadliest massacres in Pakistan’s history.

In the face of the Taliban sweep, the US-backed and trained Afghan military crumbled in mid-August 2021.

The Taliban seized US-supplied firepower, recovering guns, ammunition, helicopters and other modern military equipment from Afghan forces who surrendered it.

Though no one knows the exact value, US defense officials have confirmed it is significant.

Since the Taliban takeover next door, Islamabad says TTP fighters have increasingly been given shelter by the Afghan Taliban, straining ties between Islamabad and Kabul.

Pakistan became a key ally of Washington in its war against terror after the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Some figures and studies suggest at least 80,000 Pakistanis have been killed in the so-called US-led War on Terror over the past years.

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