The United States on Thursday (December 1) announced it was designating Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and South Asian al-Qaeda leaders as terrorists, vowing action as alarm grows over trends in Afghanistan.
Washington is concerned that terrorist groups could be using Afghanistan as a haven for training and operations.
The United States designated the number two of the TTP, Mufti Hazrat Deroji, also known as Qari Amjad. The TTP's 15-year campaign of violence has stepped up since last year, and earlier this week the group called off a shaky ceasefire agreed with the government and ordered its fighters to stage attacks across the country.
Since 2021, Pakistan has seen a 50% surge in militant attacks, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).
Deroji has overseen operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, one of two Pakistani border areas that have borne the brunt of violent attacks, say US officials. The other affected border area is Balochistan province.
AQIS leaders designated
The targeted insurgents include four leaders of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), a regional branch of the insurgent network, including self-styled AQIS "emir" Osama Mehmood.
The designations are "part of our relentless efforts to ensure that terrorists do not use Afghanistan as a platform for international terrorism", Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
"We will continue to use all relevant tools to uphold our commitment to see to it that international terrorists are not able to operate with impunity in Afghanistan," Blinken said.
The State Department and Treasury Department listed the four as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, making it a crime in the United States to engage in transactions with them and blocking any assets they have in the country.
Finding and killing terrorists
Even though the United States is no longer present in Afghanistan, it has kept its promise from mid-2021 to conduct "over the horizon" operations there if necessary to eliminate terrorists.
It kept its word on July 31, when it fired two missiles that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had moved to Kabul.
Al-Zawahiri was living in Kabul even though the United States had received assurances that Afghanistan would not provide sanctuary to al-Qaeda. The terrorist group used Afghanistan as a haven for plotting the 9/11 attacks.
In September 2019, US and Afghan forces killed AQIS founder Asim Umar in a joint raid in Helmand province.