Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan are not the Afghan Taliban
Its goal is to bring down the Pakistani government
The TTP first took the global spotlight with the attempted Times Square bombing in 2010
While its recent attack on a military school in Peshawar, Pakistan brought international outrage, the Pakistani Taliban has long taken credit for an extensive list of assaults on civilians and the military in the country’s largely-ungoverned tribal areas along the Afghan border – and further afield.
The banned Islamist group, which has intimate links to the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, unabashedly confirmed it was responsible for the deadly attack on the army-run school, as well as the attempt to kill teen activist Malala Yousufzai in 2012.
But before that, the group, formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), took the global spotlight when Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, attempted to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square in May 2010. The TTP took responsibility, and Shahzad testified that he had received training from them.
The following September, the U.S. State Department designated the TTP a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.”
Are they “the Taliban?”
They are not “the Taliban” that the U.S. forces have been at war with in Afghanistan, according to Raza Rumi, director of policy and programs at the Jinnah Institute, a Pakistani think tank. But that they adopted the name “Taliban” is no coincidence.
The group is very closely linked with its namesake in Afghanistan as well as with al Qaeda. It shares its religious extremist ideology – but is its own distinct group.
The TTP also has a different goal, but its tactics are the same, says the analyst.
“Their primary target is the Pakistani state and its military,” he says. “It resents the fact that it (Pakistan) has an alliance with the West, and it wants Sharia to be imposed in Pakistan.”
Another terrorism analyst notes that “there is a shared heritage between the two groups.”
“The Pakistani Taliban emerged as a power alongside the Taliban as a kind of network of support,” says Matthew Henman of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.
During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, fighters from Pakistan crossed over the border to fight. They retained close relations with the Taliban after returning home, Rumi says.
There are other militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal region not under the umbrella of the TTP, who support the Taliban but do not pursue Tehrik-i-Taliban’s goals of replacing the Pakistani state with an Islamist one.
Where do the TTP’s roots lie?
Pakistan’s army began hunting various militant groups in the semi-autonomous regions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), in 2002.