Impact of US Weapons on Pakistan’s CT Operations

Afghanistan Pakistan Map

In the war against terrorism, technology has become both a boon and a bane. While advancements in weapons, optics, and equipment have provided security forces with sophisticated tools to combat terrorism, they have also posted significant challenges, particularly in countries like Pakistan.

As we have seen in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, an estimated $7.2 Billion worth of weapons and military equipment changed hands in Afghanistan – material that had been provided to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). This comprised a vast cache of small arms, communication gear, armored vehicles, and highly advanced technical optics and equipment.

This arsenal of US weapons has transformed the security landscape of counter terrorism operations by Pakistan. Terrorist groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP), Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) have previously relied upon old Russian made AK-47s and locally made weapons. These terrorist groups are now equipped with American made combat helmets, M4 assault rifles, and M-16 machine guns – customized with modern weapon sights.

Pakistan, situated at the crossroads of regional instability, has long been plagued by terrorist organizations seeking to undermine its stability and security. Following the Afghan withdrawal of U.S. forces, Pakistan is forced to combat the spilling wave of this terrorism network and the increased attacks by militant groups, especially like TTP and ISKP, that are based in safe havens across Afghanistan.

In an attack on the Mianwali Air Base of Pakistan Air Force on September 6, 2023, Pakistan witnessed a brazen assault by Tehreek-e-Taliban terrorists. They used a foreign-made cache of arms, including RPGs, AK-47, AK-74, M4, and M16 assault rifles. These sophisticated weapons were retrieved from the possession of the attackers. In addition, the terrorists were equipped with night vision goggles and American manufactured rifles customized with thermal sights.

A similar arsenal was deployed in the attack that claimed the lives of 12 police personnel from an elite force in the Daraban area of Dera Ismail Khan on December 12, 2023, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In another attack claimed by the TTP, in Dera Ismail Khan area, three police personnel were killed, although five terrorists were neutralized by the swift response of security forces. Yet again, U.S. manufactured arms including M16 assault rifles, AK-74 rifles, and high explosive grenades were recovered from possession of these terrorists.

The overwhelming use of sophisticated weapons and equipment, modernized small arms, and advanced weaponry is profoundly impacting Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations, presenting formidable challenges to its security forces and undermining efforts to combat terrorism effectively. Addressing these challenges requires a holistic approach that leverages technological innovation and provision of an advanced and compatible security force deployed to counter the evolving terror threat.

The evolving landscape of counterterrorism efforts of Pakistan’s security forces must be taken into account. Post U.S withdrawal, some weapons of the ANDSF have unfortunately fell into the hands of terrorist groups like TTP and ISKP, enabling them to carry out cross-border attacks against Pakistani security forces and law enforcement agencies. These unsettling developments have raised concerns and rang alarm bells amongst stakeholders in the region. The involvement of external actors in arming the TTP is also questionable in this context, along with the provision of safe havens for terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. This scenario paints a grim picture for the security landscape evolving across the region.

The terrorist groups have been exploiting the skillful use of the modern weapons by posting videos of its fighters attacking the lesser armed security personnel of Pakistan’s Law enforcement agencies with ease and inflicting high casualties. Over the past two years an increased number of videos have been flooded on the social media handles of the terrorist groups. These videos assist in recruitment and instills fear amongst the people. Dramatic TTP videos show attacks on Pakistani police and military outposts by militants armed with advanced weapons equipped with night vision and thermal sights – equipment provided in the past to Afghan special operations forces. These are now easily available in the price range of $500 to $1000. It’s a new arms race, similar to late 1970s during the Afghan war, when AK47s flooded the weapons market, and it became the symbol of insurgent and terror groups ever since. At the time, the AK47 was the most widely manufactured weapon, easy to use, lethal, and required low maintenance cost.

Taliban are now becoming increasingly involved in selling these US-made arms that have been available for insurgent groups across the globe, spilling to East Asian and Middle Eastern Terrorist Groups. According to regional experts it will be very difficult to contain the terrorist groups. The threats associated with these advanced weapons and equipment will continue to haunt the counter terrorism efforts across the region.


Author: Muhammad Usman Safdar, M.Phil Scholar, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid E Azam University, Islamabad.