Islamabad, Pakistan – The Taliban is acting as a mediator between the Pakistani government and the Pakistan Taliban, known by the acronym TTP, Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister has said.
In an interview to the BBC’s Urdu service on Sunday, Amir Khan Muttaqi said the Afghan Taliban had stepped in at the “request” of both parties.
“No final agreement has been reached; however, the start has been very good, and in the first part of the [talks] there has been an agreement on a one-month ceasefire,” said Muttaqi.
“Both sides agreed that talks will remain ongoing.”
Last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed that Pakistan had begun negotiations with the TTP after the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August. Tens of thousands of civilians, security forces and fighters have been killed in the past 14 years of armed rebellion waged by the TTP.
The Taliban and the TTP are two distinct groups, with separate leadership structures and objectives, although their ideologies are similar and the TTP has aided the Taliban in its fight against US-led NATO forces in the past.
Formed in 2007, the TTP is an umbrella organisation of armed groups formed across Pakistan’s northwest that seeks to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law on the country.
The group has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks on Pakistani soil in the country’s history, including a 2014 assault on a school that killed more than 135 schoolchildren.
In 2014, Pakistani security forces launched a widescale military operation against the TTP, successfully displacing it from its erstwhile headquarters in the North Waziristan district, and significantly degrading its operational capability. Since then, analysts and security officials say, the group has mainly been based in eastern Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August, attacks on Pakistani security forces and some civilians in the North and South Waziristan districts have spiked, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal research organisation.
Last week, Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that a monthlong ceasefire agreement had been reached between the TTP and the Pakistani government, an apparent result of the talks Afghan Minister Muttaqi referenced on Sunday.
The ceasefire will expire on December 9, TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani said.
ISIL poses a threat
In his wide-ranging interview with the BBC, Muttaqi acknowledged that ISIL (ISIS) armed group was a threat, but said his government had taken steps to control the situation.
“When we conquered Kabul, Daesh [a common alternate name for ISIL] began to raise its head in [some] areas but the Taliban government has taken the best actions to control them. We have now restricted Daesh in most areas,” he said.
“There are sometimes incidents in some places, like mosques, which can happen anywhere in the world.”
On Friday, at least three people were killed and 15 wounded when a bomb exploded during midday prayers in the Spin Ghar area of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province.
On Saturday, an attack on a mainly Shia Muslim neighbourhood in the capital Kabul killed at least one person and left four others wounded.
A local ISIL affiliate, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Afghanistan since August, particularly targeting the Shia minority.