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What next for the Taliban?

April 29, 2014

Summary: What next for the Taliban after the election.  Is it harder to sustain a jihad when the main target has largely gone home and you are only killing your own population? 

Photos of Afghan maps 006An interesting article from the New York Times emphasises the question that I guess quite a few of us are pondering: where are the Taliban now to go after a moderately successful election that looked like a firm rejection of the insurgent group? The answers are not easy to find: pity the poor intelligence analysts:

“It’s the fundamental problem we have with fewer touch points in the field,” said one Western military source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “We’re dealing with lesser personal knowledge.”  The source added: “There are a lot of data points, but they are all over the place — they don’t point to one thing. And some of the things that are happening contradict each other.”

So speculation is rife but reliable information limited. Leadership struggles, lack of finances, less recruits may all play a part. Media and public backlash against civilian casualties may also be limiting their options – with Western troops rarely on the battlefield these days, it does increasingly become an Afghan on Afghan (or Muslim on Muslim) combat.  This was the difficulty that the Mujahideen had in sustaining operations after the Soviets departed in the late 1980s and early 1990s – sustaining “Jihad” becomes harder when the object of the resistance has departed.  Perhaps weariness and inertia is playing a part.  But without intentionally trying to state the obvious, it is unwise to write off the movement and also too early to tell. A fragmented Taliban would still be a dangerous force, perhaps even more so if a section embraces more terrorism.   A post-election pause to regroup and rethink does not mean the end of the movement.  A persistent insurgency does not need to capture the capital to destabilise and collapse a new government.  

Lets see what the Taliban have to say in a month or so, when they are due to announce the year’s Summer offensive.  I sense they struggle wth new ideas, but “more of the same” as a message may also undermine their credibility and support.

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