Terrorism: Bleeding Wound for Regional Connectivity



Expecting regional connectivity among China, Central and South Asia without peace is like building a castle on shifting sands. Central Asia – is an energy-rich, whereas South Asia – an energy thirst; regions are striving to join hands through regional connectivity projects such as Wakhan Corridor, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Trans-Afghan Railway Line. These connectivity projects are peace and stability dependent.

Ensuring peace in the thick of the dense terrorist landscape of South Asia is not a low-hanging fruit.

It, therefore, is paramount and essential to delve into the challenges posed by terrorist organisations in the connectivity projects among China, South and Central Asia.

Terrorism – An Anti-Regional Connectivity Phenomenon

Terrorist organizations such as Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISKP) are peace spoilers in these regions. From their inception, these two organizations remained uncompromisingly steadfast in wracking chaos, otherwise of peace, prosperity and collective goodness. For instance, an article praising the ISKP while criticising the Taliban for “protecting the interests of Allah’s enemies in Afghanistan” was published by Anfaal Media – ISKP’s propaganda mouthpiece. In this article, the TAPI natural gas pipeline and China’s ownership of the Mes Aynak copper mine were both cited as being sinister. On the other hand, TTP – the mother organization of ISKP, targeted the Chinese in Quetta in an attempt to sabotage the Pak-China endeavors on regional connectivity projects such as the CPEC – to which Afghanistan has announced to be part of it.

Theoretically, Louise Richardson in his book, ‘What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat’ opines that terrorists seek the three R’s: retaliation (against actual or imagined atrocities), reaction (by inciting counterterrorism to use disproportionate force in order to create a victimised narrative), and renown (profile-raising). In this instance, the ISKP and TTP, known for being the most outspoken anti-China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia Republics (CARs) jihadist organisations, are practicing all the R’s.

Let’s apprehend the three R’s with examples. Firstly, ISKP alleged in an article for the al-Naba newsletter that China is using “the methods of investment” to “fortify its ties with despotic governments”. The article emphasized the Muslims to “wage war against the idolaters of China everywhere” by killing and kidnapping Chinese people and workers and attacking Beijing’s economic interests and investments. Similarly, the pro-ISKP al-Battar Media raised a question; Can China finish the Silk Road project for which they killed Muslims?”  According to the statement, ISKP “stated war on China in direct support and backing for Uighur Muslims,” and it was clear that the “war includes all the interests of the Communist state.” These statements illustrate the ‘Retaliation’ against China for its alleged atrocities on Muslims living in China.

Secondly, TTP’s unwavering anti-China rhetoric’s are richly documented in history. The organization’s English-language ‘Azan’ Magazine criticised Pakistan in 2013 and 2014 for maintaining cordial ties with China, an “atheist” and non-Muslim nation. Additionally, Abdullah Mansoor of the TTP declared, “O Chinese unbelievers, know that you have been fooling East Turkestan for the last sixty years, but now they have awakened,” following the attack on Tiananmen Square. Further to the threat to the civilians working on infrastructural projects, the ISKP’s Al-Millat Media published a new book, “Why killing civilians?” authored by Abu Abdul Rahman Moahid. In this book, they warned the civilians involved in the infrastructural projects in Afghanistan.

Here, it is equally important to understand that terrorist organisations do not operate in isolation but lace together in waging ambushes.

Precarious Consortium of Terrorist Organizations

In the crowded terrorist landscape of South Asia, terrorist organizations are fond of making liaisons with each other for the sake of survival and attacks. The liaison among TTP – ISKP and IMU works as the major strategic challenge in fostering regional connectivity. These three organizations are operating from northern and eastern Afghanistan.

From strategic and operational perspectives, it has been vivid that the ISKP has already planted its feet in northern Afghanistan. The attacks in Kunduz and Takhar are testimonies of ISKP’s operations in the north of Afghanistan. North Afghanistan, generally, is the starting point of connectivity projects such as TAPI, Wakhan Corridor and Tans-Afghan Railway Line. The presence of ISKP means a hurdle for these projects. The TTP, geographically, dwelling in eastern Afghanistan – from where the regional connectivity projects is supposed to enter Pakistan.

Based in Afghanistan, ISKP, in particular, had made the security strategists ponder on the feasibility of the regional projects when it started attacking the CARs.

Uzbekistan, for instance, aiming to materialize the Trans Afghan Railway line connecting Termez, Uzbekistan, with the Mazar e Sharif of Afghanistan and Peshawar of Pakistan. Its expected cost is $8 billion with 783 Kilometers of total length. Notably, the operational railway between the Galaba railway station in Termez, Uzbekistan, to the Hairatan railway station in Mazar e Sharif Afghanistan, is connected to the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway project. This means the Trans-Afghan Railway line is not only connects Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan but also connects China, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

In addition, Tawhid News of ISKP also released a 24-minute audio statement in the Uzbek language titled “The blessed attack of Termez,” translated by Uran Botobekov – a well-adept Jihadist. The statement claimed that the Islamic State’s “great jihad to Central Asia Republics had commenced with the rocket attack against the “apostate Uzbek government.” It further asserted that the ongoing initiative to construct a railway link from Uzbekistan to the Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, via Kabul to Peshawar, Pakistan, is nothing more than an apostates conspiracy to sow the seeds of democracy in Khurasan.

Notwithstanding, the epicentre of the Trans Afghan Railway Line – Uzbekistan, was ambushed with Katyusha rockets on 18 April 2021 by ISKP from Balkh Afghanistan. These attacks have raised the eyebrows of security analysts as the presence of ISKP in the north of Afghanistan and its high magnitude attacks within Afghanistan and across the border – in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, could create a cloud of threat for the connectivity projects such as Trans Afghan Railway Line.

As mentioned earlier that in halting the infrastructural and developmental projects, the terrorist organisations do not hesitate to club together on a single platform such as the IMU – TTP nexus is well documented in the antiquity. The two organisations worked hand in glove in Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport ambush in 2014 and formed the militant organisation Ansar al-Aseen to release TTP members who were imprisoned in Pakistan.

Similarly, IMU head Usman Gazi, on September 26, 2014, announced his support to ISKP, thenceforth working shoulder to shoulder with ISKP. Likewise, in January 2020, the UN Report revealed that ISKP and TTP had developed an unofficial liaison. Delving into the historical evolution of ISKP, one could easily find that TTP is the ‘Mother Organisation’ of ISKP, providing the fact that the first Emir of ISKP, Hafiz Saeed Khan, was an ex-TTP commander. Thus, the trio of terrorism – TTP, ISKP and IMU – are technically working together to confront the regional connectivity projects to put South and Central Asian states on developmental tracks.

The convergence between ISKP-TTP and IMU trotted out a message that they are strategic challenges for the operating states in particular and the region in general. Meanwhile, ambushed on regional connectivity initiatives attract the attention of the global audience. Whereas, targeting in particular could help TTP, ISKP and IMU to galvanize the attention of all anti-China regional and global powers.

Terrorists for Hire!

According to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) report of February 2008, terrorist organizations live a longer life providing adaptability and opportunism in raising funds for survival and activities.

TTP, under Noor Wali Mehsud – an opportunist leader, qualifies to both of these traits (adaptability and opportunism) of a terrorist organization. Chronological study of TTP reveals the rapidly changing narratives of TTP with the passage of time, circumstances and leadership. For instance, Hakeem Ullah Mehsud, was fond of doing Jihad beyond the limits of borders whereas Noor Wali Mehsud has limited the Jihad against the security forces and security agencies of Pakistan. The changing narratives, goals and targets rings the bells to understand that in future the TTP could be work as a ‘hired terrorist’ organization for the sake to pocket in some bucks, so could be done by ISKP and IMU. Lastly, active operations of Jihadist groups in the vicinity of China, CARs, and Pakistan are ‘Bleeding Wounds’ in regional connectivity.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the South Asia Times.


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