March 3, 2017 On March 2, Pakistan’s Cabinet approved the incorporation of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas into the adjacent province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The move will end the autonomous status of the region that straddles the border with Afghanistan and has been a global hub of transnational jihadi activity. During the early 2000s, an anti-Pakistan jihadi insurgency took shape in the tribal areas in which Pakistan had supported anti-Soviet Islamist insurgents, and later on, the Afghan Taliban. The rise of this Taliban movement was aided by al-Qaida, which relocated to Pakistan after the destruction of its Afghanistan facilities in late 2001. Over time, Pakistan lost control of the tribal badlands along its northwestern border with Afghanistan and many districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The tide shifted in 2009 when Pakistan retook the Swat district, which had become a de facto Taliban emirate deep inside the country. Islamabad also launched a major offensive in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas. It took another five years for the Pakistanis to mount an offensive in North Waziristan in June 2014. While the frequency of attacks in Pakistan has considerably declined between 2014 and now, the recent wave suggests that the jihadi rebels retained their capabilities during the crackdown by going underground. To learn more about the increasing pressure from jihadism along the international boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the destabilizing effects it has had, check out our recent Deep Dive, “The Afghanistan-Pakistan Fault Line.”