Afghani Mujahedeen: Hezbollah or Tehreek-e-Taliban?
As Pakistan announces arresting Sufi Mohammad and its government’s intention to charge him with anti-state activities, the Afghani Taliban have begun solidifying and centralizing their code of conduct and agendas in a new manifesto that is now being issued to all fighters.
This is the movement’s first significant effort at centralization since its inception. With the Afghani elections 4 weeks away, and all 3 leading candidates heavily emphasizing their intention to initiate dialogue with the Taliban, this could be an effort to provide a cohesive identity that can successfully navigate future political waters. The booklet states:
With such clear directives on the structure of the organization, and the dissolution or excommunication of groups that fail to integrate, negotiating with the new Taliban can be expected to be a harder task for the new President. This also would prevent the isolation of the core movement that Miliband suggested earlier today. A preemptive expansion of power over the currently autonomous local cells would prevent regional leaders from entering into peace deals without approval. If the Afghani Taliban movement is concerned about a loss in momentum following the election cycle, ensuring local cells do not defect would be a first step towards retaining a broad base and impetus.
The manifesto also provides centralizing structures for trial courts, the treatment and exchange of prisoners, suicide attacks and the granting of asylum. For example, on the treatment of high-value captures, it states:
Such normalized rules of engagement redouble the organization’s image as a cohesive identity that must be dealt with in unity on the national political stage. Importantly, as the following excerpts from the booklet illustrate, they also give the rules of engagement with civilians a consolidated face.
Relating to the Afghan people: The mujaheddin must avoid discrimination based on tribal roots, language or their geographic background.
The manifesto also indicates that it is each fighter’s duty to win the support of the local population. This is indicative of the recognition that with the candidates actively courting tribal loyalties and a surge in NATO forces, without popular support, the movement cannot expect to find a political foothold in the coming weeks.
Finally, perhaps the most important facet of the booklet is its regional specificity: the title reads “Afghanistani Islami Emarat” – Emirate Of Afghanistan – above all other text. This is in stark contrast to the Tehreek-e-Taliban in Pakistan, where Muslim Khan has been expressed clear expansionist intentions: “Jihad does not stop in Pakistan”.
As the Afghani Taliban seek to disassociate themselves from parasitic splinter cells and revive the grass-roots support they enjoyed in the late 90s, is this a precursor to a trend in the movement, where it will go the way of Hezbollah – a region-specific movement with clear socio-political objectives? Or will it go the way of the Pakistani Taliban, an ideologically-fueled, expansionist force?