Pakistan's Kurram Offensive-Implications for Afghanistan
The insurgency in Afghanistan’s eastern region is likely to benefit from the Pakistani military’s new military operations in Kurram Agency. As the Pakistani military targets only a select pocket of militants, groups that have recently declared a truce with the Pakistani military or are aligned with elements of the security establishment are allowed room to expand. Ultimately, an expanding presence of Afghanistan-focused Haqqani network fighters and affiliated groups in Kurram will be a growing threat to U.S., coalition and Afghan efforts to secure eastern Afghanistan.
On June 24, the Pakistani military launched operations in Kurram Agency. The operations, as briefed by the Pakistani military, are designed to clear insurgents from central and lower Kurram. Approximately 4,000 Pakistani Army troops supported by the Pakistani Air Force are taking part in the offensive. Despite all appearances, the military is only targeting a select pocket of these militants, largely those with an anti-state agenda, such as the Pakistani Taliban or Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Military operations are not targeting militants who have recently declared a truce with the Pakistani military or those that are actively aligned with elements of the Pakistani security establishment in their campaign to secure influence in eastern Afghanistan, such as the Haqqani network. In fact, these operations will help facilitate the movement of Haqqani-backed forces into Kurram in order to project into Afghanistan’s eastern provinces. Ultimately, an expanded presence of Afghanistan-focused Haqqani network fighters and affiliated groups such as al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e Taiba in Kurram will increase the threat to U.S., coalition and Afghan forces and further jeopardize ongoing efforts to secure eastern Afghanistan.
This report provides a comprehensive understanding of recent Pakistani military operations in Kurram and the greater significance these events will have on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The first section provides a detailed account of developments leading up to the decision to launch operations. The subsequent sections describe the unfolding military campaign, the internally displaced persons’ crisis in the agency and militants’ attempts to exploit the situation. The report concludes with some strategic considerations detailing precisely how the Haqqani network and affiliated fighters will directly benefit from recent developments in Kurram.