Category Archives: Books

Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a Decade of War -RUSI Paper

By Theo Farrell and Michael Semple                             Copy of the Post in PDF


Despite high-profile success on the battlefield, interviews with Taliban personnel reveal substantial discord within the group.

This briefing paper argues that:

  • The Taliban movement is in disarray. The new leader, Maulawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, is widely viewed as weak and ineffective.
  • Several factions within the Taliban are vying for power. The Mansour network, which is based in Helmand and claims to be backed by Iran and Russia, has risen to become the most dynamic ….  Read more on

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Rhetoric, Ideology and Organizational Structure of the Taliban Movement

Published: January 5, 2015               
By: Michael Semple                                   Copy of the Post in PDF

This report examines the evolution of the Taliban case for armed struggle and the minimal adjustments Taliban rhetoricians made to cope with the impending political change in Afghanistan in 2014. It considers how the Taliban might make a case for peace, should they take the political decision to engage in negotiations.


  • The Taliban movement commands the loyalty of thousands of Afghans and applies resources and men to the pursuit of political objectives, guided by doctrine and inspired by rhetoric.
  • Taliban rhetoric consists of religious and historical references, narratives of recent events, and guidance for Taliban sympathizers.
  • The rhetoric asserts that the Taliban are engaged in a righteous jihad aimed at establishing a divinely ordered Islamic system in Afghanistan.
  • Taliban doctrine focuses on internal affairs and in particular on maintaining cohesiveness. The Taliban are ruthless in enforcing their doctrine of obedience to the amir, or leader.
  • The movement has retained a narrow social base, and its power is concentrated in the hands of mullahs from the Kandahari Pashtun tribes.
  • Any project to build a plural Afghanistan is likely to include an appeal to the Taliban or the constituency they have mobilized.

Poetry of the Taliban

Reconciliation in Afghanistan

“As the Obama administration develops and implements its revised strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, a principle topic of debate is -reconciliation–how to deal politically with Taliban and other insurgents who are not pursuing al-Qaeda’s global objectives in search of a political solution. Michael Semple brings to bear a wealth of practical experience on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has spoken in-depth with more insurgent commanders than virtually any international official, and his long service in the region has equipped him with the knowledge, language skills, and personal networks to analyze such contacts in depth. The result is the most detailed and knowledgeable road map to date for how to pursue dialogue and negotiation with Taliban and other Islamist guerrillas in the area that are today sheltering the leadership of al-Qaeda.”

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—Barnett R. Rubin, Director of Studies and Senior Fellow, Center on International Cooperation, New York University