Pakistan and Taliban Exchange Artillery Fire After Pakistani Airstrikes

United States Military Academy and American Military University Alumni. Victor covers flash military, intelligence, and geo-political updates.

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Update (0914 EST):

The Pakistani government has confirmed an anti-terror operation in the border areas of Afghanistan. The announcement from the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads below:

“This morning Pakistan carried out intelligence-based anti-terrorist operations in the border regions inside Afghanistan.

The prime target of today’s operation was the terrorists belonging to Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group, which along with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, resulting in deaths of hundreds of civilians and law enforcement officials. The latest attack took place on 16 March 2024 at a security post in Mir Ali in North Waziristan and claimed the lives of seven Pakistani soldiers.

Over the past two years, Pakistan has repeatedly conveyed its serious concerns to the Interim Afghan Government over the presence of terror outfits including TTP inside Afghanistan. These terrorists pose a grave threat to Pakistan’s security and have consistently used Afghan territory to launch terror attacks inside Pakistani territory.”

The statement went on to be conciliatory with the Afghan Interim government and made overtures to the Afghani people. However, this statement was not sufficient, and the Afghan Foreign Ministry summoned the Pakistani Ambassador over protests to the strikes.

At approximately 2043 EST on 17 Mar 24, the Pakistani Air Force conducted several airstrikes against Tehrik-e Taliban militants in Khost, Kunar, and Paktika provinces, the largest single action in Afghanistan since the Taliban took power. Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan affiliate Abduallh Shah’s home was reportedly destroyed in the strike and at least five other people were killed. In Khost, the Pasa Mella area was struck. In Paktika, the Lamni market in the Barmal distrcit was struck, this strike was the most significant near civilian populations. As of this publication, casualties are being reported as eight killed including two women and children from the Taliban.

The first Taliban official to comment on the situation was Taliban Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid who stated that the situation was still being assessed by 2150 EST. The Interim Afghan Defense Ministry told press by 2200 EST, that it was considering options against Pakistan. By 0015 EST, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan condemned the strikes as “targeting Waziristan refugees” in Afghanistan. The group also claimed that Abdullah Shah was not killed on and on the Pakistani side of the border.

By 0200 EST, initial reports indicated that the Taliban had begun shelling targets in Pakistan, specifically against the border areas in Kurram, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan districts of Kyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. In expectation of retaliations from the Pakistanis, the Taliban began evacuating civilians from the Dan Wa Patan District of Paktia.

The Pakistanis also had to evacuate civilians from the Durand Line in the Borkia area of Parachinar, Pakistan, especially the Government High School there. Several Pakistani militia positions were targeted in this area by Taliban ground fires.

As of this publication, the fighting is still ongoing and at least five Pakistani military personnel have been reported as injured, but this is not confirmed.

The Pakistani Taliban, officially called the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan is an umbrella organization of various Islamist armed militant groups operating along the Afghan–Pakistani border. Formed in 2007 by Baitullah Mehsud, its current leader is Noor Wali Mehsud, who has publicly pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban . The Pakistani Taliban share a common ideology with the Afghan Taliban and have assisted them in the 2001–2021 war, but the two groups have separate operation and command structures.