There is a chilling inevitability about the announcement by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, with another five TTP leaders having decided to declare their allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (referred to hereafter as ‘IS’). The announcement was made via a video posted online and distributed to representatives of the media. This is yet another significant split in the ranks of the TTP, with the statement going on to amplify the distance between those currently moving towards the IS and the TTP. Within the statement, there were nuances, with it being said that the TTP chief, Mullah Fazlullah, has thus far supported the IS, but not yet declared allegiance. Whilst this may seem like nitpicking, in fact, it is significant because the allegiance has come from a majority of TTP’s Fata chapters.
What the new declaration of allegiance is going to mean in operational terms is difficult to say. The IS seem to be working to consolidate their existing gains, which are nowhere near as joined up as graphics in newspapers and on the electronic media would have people believe. Neither are they entirely homogenous, any more than the TTP is and here lies their most significant weakness. Factional, ideological and tribal strife are common between the Taliban groups and offer by far the best opportunity to drive a wedge between their various ranks and groups.
That said, the announcement is worrying in that an already violent group has allied itself with a group even more violent than itself, and one might wonder just where the many apologists for the Taliban are going to position themselves now that some of those they covertly support have shown themselves to be nothing less than vicious killers. Is the position of the apologists sustainable? We believe not. The IS propagandists have already busied themselves in Peshawar, with leaflets and wall-chalkings appearing all over the city and reports of them being active among vulnerable IDP groups. Nothing less than robust condemnation of the announcement is going to suffice, and soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2014.