An examination of the TTP’s historical evolution since its emergence in 2007 clearly shows that the organization was degraded significantly throughout much of the last decade, as indicated by its declining operational activity in Pakistan post 2014-15. Major contributors to the TTP’s decline were internecine conflict, heavy losses from military operations, splintering and defections to Islamic State Khorasan (ISK), and significant reputational costs associated with ruthless civilian targeting. In this context, it is perhaps unexpected that the group resurged post 2018, intensified its attacks on Pakistani security personnel, and successfully repositioned itself to negotiate with the Pakistani state from a position of strength, presenting bold demands of autonomy and constitutional reversals.
What explains the TTP’s current unrelenting political posture? To shed further light on the underlying drivers of the TTP’s intransigent stance in its negotiations with the Pakistani state, we explore how the Afghan Taliban leadership’s role as a reluctant facilitator—i.e. its limited interest in pressuring the TTP to concede to Pakistan—has emboldened the TTP’s demands, coercive tactics, and messaging efforts to recreate its image. Additionally, we discuss how both the optics of Pakistan’s eagerness to negotiate with a proscribed group while experiencing significant internal socioeconomic and political challenges, as well as prevailing anti-Pakistan sentiment amongst Afghan Taliban militants, have contributed to the TTP’s current emboldened status.