Taliban’s New Strategy

If Taliban head Mullah Omar’s recent Eid ul-Fitr (marking end of Muslim holy month Ramadan) speech serves any indication – it is Taliban’s latest strategy to regroup and enhance its prospects to rule Afghanistan but in a new format…Besides some of the high sounding and oft repeated slogans such as establishing Islamic rule, Omar’s call for a multilateral framework within Afghanistan but without any foreign intervention, and his declaration of intent of not ‘monopolizing power,’ implying according due space to diverse communities and their aspirations, are some of hitherto unheard watchwords in Afghanistan’s recent political process. In the fast flow of events in Afghanistan things remain highly unpredictable and thus as of now it is difficult to foretell whether Taliban will opt for an inclusive and peaceful Afghanistan subsequent to the departure of foreign forces, or will drag the society back to violent years of 1990s. It is difficult to say whether the tiger has changed its strips in a camouflage to attract wider participation in its radical schemes, or if there is an emergence of a nonviolent and devout leader in the name of Mullah Omar towards peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

Omar is known to be a radical leader to invoke religious sentiments of Afghan people towards establishing Sharia law. But Eid speech of Mullah Omar appeared more political and less religious, and sounded as if the radical cleric has emerged as a political reformer to transform state and society in Afghanistan under his benevolent guidance as Amir-ul-Momineen. Omar exuded confidence that soon ‘occupation’ of Afghanistan will be over, and unlike the past cases of ‘slavery’ there will be a peaceful Afghanistan. He made it clear that in the new format Taliban will not go solo in ruling Afghanistan but take along other stake holders in the affairs of the country. In this context, he might have struck the right cord in not pronouncing scorn against any particular ethnic community. While Taliban represent sections of Pashtun voices, there are significant ethnic communities like Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara which have explicitly expressed differences over Taliban strategy. The days of brutalities of Taliban rule in 1990s wherein extremists butchered people belonging to other communities have not been forgotten.

Omar minced no words in his vehemence towards the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan. Though he expressed his interests in talks, which is undergoing in the context of freeing prisoners, he was confident that the negotiations alone cannot bring peace in Afghanistan. He visualized diminishing morale of western forces, and displayed pride in seizing their ‘tactics’ to weaken them. In his words, “All people are now witness to the tremendous life casualties of the enemy as well as the downing of their aircrafts.” Perhaps in an attempt to create differences amongst NATO partners in Afghanistan, he singled out the US and pointed out how ‘terrible problems’ in its economy is beneficial for Taliban’s ‘sacred jihad.’ He pointed out how in the last one year, Taliban could inflict heavy damages by targeting western installations, killing a significant number of US soldiers, in comparison to previous years. His tone was moderate towards the NATO members, which are withdrawing their forces from Afghanistan as they could ‘know realities of the war of Afghanistan.’ Towards regional neighbours Omar’s tone appeared conciliatory and harmonious but not without warnings. While he solicited cooperation of neighbours towards reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, he warned them not to interfere in domestic affairs of the country. Taliban have already the experience how they found themselves in a violent fix due to divergent policies of neighbours towards internal turmoil in the country in 1990s. For instance, while the Uzbeks enjoyed support of Iran, the Pashtun Taliban was backed by Pakistan. Repetition of history can be counter productive in terms of the grand scheme of an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. Omar does not want revival of past tragedy, diversely affecting his grand strategy of an Islamic Afghanistan, governed by Sharia law.

He blamed foreign powers for misfortunes Afghan people are undergoing. He pointed out, “The aggressors of our land haven’t completed mega and strategic projects … Contrarily, they have openly and secretly flared up geographical and racial conflicts and encouraged the youth to involve in lingual and geographical controversies.” He accused, policies of foreign powers pushed the country towards poverty. He predicted a prosperous Afghanistan because the country has ‘vast arable land, rich mines and high potential of energy resources’ and invited businessmen and industrialists and common people to join his scheme of development. It was interesting to note Omar called upon his followers not to use force, consider strangers as members of family, not to collect money by means of force, take permission of the native people before embarking on any action, so on and so forth. In his words, “When you face a common man, think if you were a commoner in his place and if you had no weapon, what you would expect him to behave with people. In other words, think if that given person whom you are confronting with, if he was your father, brother or another close relative, how would you behave with him? … No one affiliated with the Islamic Emirate is allowed to extort money from people by force… protection of life and property of people is one of the main goals of Jihad.”

In his lengthy speech, he nowhere mentioned the role his organization played in dragging Afghan society towards dogmatism and poverty and underdevelopment. It appears, if one believes Omar’s speech as his matters of faith and action, all the incidents reported in media such as forceful tax collection by Taliban ranks, distribution of pamphlets for jihad, and application of medieval principles such as public execution, are just canards against Taliban. Omar emerged as a clever politician and strategist in his attempts towards dispelling any such image of Taliban as this speech indicates. It is likely that he was suffering from selective amnesia and could not recall how the Taliban rule in 1990s achieved nothing constructive but sectarian violence, orthodox rule and religious intolerance. It was his regime which bombarded and destroyed the magnificent Bamiyan Buddha unheeding international appeals.

The Afghan bomb is already ticking, and foreign powers will have to leave the country sooner or later. However, when same Mullah Omar promises pluralism, inclusiveness and development, it is but natural to be sceptic. But the options are limited. As Omar envisages in his Eid speech and if his proclamations are to be taken seriously, it may be possible that future Afghanistan will be peaceful and stable. Engaging Taliban is an essential for a stable future of Afghanistan. But words have to match action. Taliban leaders have not provided any clear roadmap of governance in Afghanistan of tomorrow. Hence, whether future will witness return of violent turmoil or peace and prosperity is subject to fragile guess work, at least for now.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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  1. The article seems to be well written but the writer fails to inform the readers how the taliban rose and why.

    The Taliban rose as result of the atrocities committed by the Warlords who were former Mujaheddin fighters. The main purpose of the Taliban movement was to bring peace thru Islam and to use force against the warlords to drive them out or become responsible Afghans.

    If that point is understood then the current statement by the Mullah Omer will much easier to understand.

  2. I don’t know whether to believe that this is really Omar, or not. It sounds too much like the last alleged tape of bin Laden, supposedly seized during the Abbottabad raid. In that alleged tape and this alleged transcript, we see both supreme leaders speaking like Western politicians. We know that bin Laden was not fighting his jihad as some freaky environmentalist or liberal activist, but that is how he came across–the same with the Omar transcript. Mullah Omar, like the rest of the Taliban, are fighters, not politicians. I stumbled across the following article on NPR, believe it or not, of an interview with an Afghan official who pointed-out that fact–the Taliban are a military force; they have no political arm. http://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/taliban-leaders-still-a-mystery/

  3. As an Indian Hindu, the writer has no clue what he is writing about Islam. First of all – Ramadan is not “a holy” month like 365 gods of Hindu religion. In Islam, there’re only two pillars which can be called ‘holy’ – Allah and His Word, the Holy Qur’an.

    Now, if Mullah Omar is a ‘radical Muslim’ – then what the writer has to call those Hindu leaders who treat 200 million Hindu Dalits (untouchable) in India like garbage?

    Many political leaders, military generals, diplomats and analysts have been stating that the US-NATO has last its war in Afghanistan long ago.

    Since last year, Obama administration has been haing secret talks with Taliban leaders to join the puppet Karzai regime under certain conditions.


  4. Tariq Javed

    I have not listened to the original transcript of Mullah Omar’s speech. How ever what this article conveys is no different stance than what Mullah had been saying earlier. My understanding of Mullah’s character is not like, he would be changing his stances every now and than. But What I Believe firmly is that he is the man who had and who can unite Afghanistan . Amir Abdul Rehman was the last one.

    Mullah, if replaces NATO would be the best option as he is the only contender of peace. The fashion rhetoric of cruel and radical prefixes with the mention of these Islamic figure would not help one find the solution. Just compare Mullah’s earlier period. Afghanistan should not be taken at par with those developed countries who have chosen to favor gays, lesbian and now what I read to my horror about Westerner organizations who have started supporting pedophiles even.

    It would be naive to expect the same from a very liberal and NATO supported government even to do that to prove it an ideal international entity. Countries don’t just copy every right and wrongs of other nations, rather an upright nation influences others by its principled policies. The projection, propaganda and socio political engineering has confused it all, where we see all the Nations through the prism of CNN and what Western media designs for us. It has now been proven surely that the Western media is now part of West’s war and political strategies.

    For Afghans, the cruelty caused to a civilians population by ANTO is much worse and has killed manifold times more than done internally.

    People liked Taliban under Mullah Omar. The only agenda he defied was to tow the NATO line. Had he been conniving in Killing of Afghans and part of NATO game plan, he would have been free to do all and worse. We can see KSA enjoying that imperial prerogative.

    I as a person and am very much sure that Mullah Omar is the only person who knows the real Afghanistan and can unite it all and bring long lasting peace.

  5. @Tariq
    Thank you Tariq for your insightful comment. There is a feeling that politicians who think they are making politics (and history) are blindfolded and paving tracks for other forces. Today the most evident cases are Afghanistan and Libya. NATO generals seemingly believe they protect ‘democratic values’ and promote US interests there. In reality they nurture counter-progressive forces, drastically antagonistic to sustainable development of the world. Most far-seeing experts predict e.g. that the motley ‘Libyan opposition’ will eventually emanate Taliban-type clamp for Libya as well. The result in both cases might be uterine cumulation (manpower, indoctrination, resources) for a couple of years and aggressive outbreak to the neighbor states afterwards.
    The main delusion for political experts is to believe that New Caliphate is whether a self-sufficient or ‘US/UK/Israel-controlled’ phenomenon. The people orchestrating such titanic schemes like 9/11, Saddam WMD or Gaddafi crimes do not care about the states at all. They think on other level of comprehension and strategic planning. We also should do it…

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