Category Archives: Publications & Blogs

The Taliban’s Battle Plan By Michael Semple – Foreign Affairs

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States’ envoy for Afghan reconciliation, has breathed new life into attempts to conduct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Having met with Taliban representatives in Qatar and lobbied leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Khalilzad now says he is “cautiously optimistic” about reaching a peace deal by April of next year.

Yet as far as Taliban leaders are concerned, the group has little reason to commit to a peace process: it is on a winning streak. The Taliban control key Afghan highways and are conducting targeted assassinations across the country. They have made important territorial gains and now have complete or partial control over some 250 of about 400 districts.

These gains are not sufficient to pose an existential threat to an Afghan government with U.S. backing, but they have emboldened the Taliban to keep fighting, in the hope of eventually eroding U.S. resolve. Even if Khalilzad manages to bring the Taliban to the table, don’t expect his efforts to …. Read More on Foreign Affairs

Afghanistan’s Islamic Emirate Returns: Life Under a Resurgent Taliban – world politics review

Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016 (AP photo by Allauddin Khan).

In 1992, after groups of guerrilla fighters known as mujahideen succeeded in toppling Afghanistan’s communist government, which had been backed by the Soviet Union, they quickly turned on each other, kicking off a civil war. In response, a group of young clerics in the southern province of Kandahar took up arms themselves, promising to restore order and establish an “Islamic system.” The Taliban movement, as the clerics became known, spread rapidly across the south and east of the country until 1996, when they ousted the fractious coalition of mujahideen and conquered Kabul.

For the next five years, the Taliban governed most of Afghanistan. They extended their administration to all parts of the country under their control, which at the height of their power was about 90 percent …. Read More on world politics review

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

By Theo Farrell and Michael Semple                              https://rusi.org         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 Rusi.org

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Top priorities for Haibatullah, new Afghan Taliban leader

(CNN)In the year that he openly led the Afghan Taliban Movement, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who was killed by a U.S drone strike Saturday, proved to be a consummate political actor.

After seizing power in a rapidly summoned conclave, he proceeded to consolidate his hold over the movement, deflect attempts by the pro-Taliban clergy (ulema) to question his authority, co-opt or eliminate dissidents, renew the Taliban’s war strategy and defy all efforts to maneuver the Taliban into peace negotiations.
To achieve all of this, Mansour drew on a rich repertoire of stratagems.

Photos: Scene from reported strike on Taliban leaders

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The Taliban replaces its dead leader – and prepares for some tricky internal politics

The May 21 drone strike that killed Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansoorwas no ordinary assassination; it was an act of armed politics against an acutely political war strategist. The

The scene of the drone strike said to have killed the Taliban’s leader. EPA

Taliban has already named Mansoor’s successor, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, and is reassuring its members that the status quo will endure – but Mansoor

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11 rebels join peace process in Herat

HERAT CITY (Pajhwok): Nearly a dozen militants on Wednesday joined the peace process in western Herat province, an official said.

Local officials said the reconciling militants had been active against the government in Guzra district.

They laid down their weapons in the presence of the governor and promised partaking in improving the security situation of the province.

Governor Mohammad Asif Rahimi told a ceremony welcoming the former fighters that all rebels should shun insurgency and return to a normal life.

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Rhetoric, Ideology and Organizational Structure of the Taliban Movement

Published: January 5, 2015                         http://www.usip.org
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.

Summary

  • 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.

Black flags and balaclavas: how jihadists dress for imaginary war

Source Link:   Author: Michael SempleQueen’s University Belfast

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The first thing that I noticed in the gruesome pictures of two gunmen fleeing the scene of their attack on Charlie Hebdo was that the men were dressed from head to toe in black.

It might sound strange, but terrorist couture is a surprisingly relevant detail from which to start making sense of what happened in Paris, and how it connects to other acts of jihadi terrorism worldwide.

The attackers dressed to look like members of a paramilitary force not to trick their way through a security check, but to symbolise their belonging to an army – albeit an imagined one.