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June 22, 2010

Giustozzi on the Taliban
Posted by Michael Wahid Hanna


On a non-McChrystal Afghanistan note, I wanted to draw attention to a newly-released report by Antonio Giustozzi published by The Century Foundation. The report, "Negotiating with the Taliban: Issues and Prospects," gives an updated description of various aspects of the Taliban’s organization with an eye toward how the nature of the group’s structure and control would impact potential negotiations. The report incorporates Giustozzi's most recent fieldwork in Afghanistan in April 2010.

Among the key arguments is that the Taliban are best described as a decentralized as opposed to a fragmented organization. While the size and hierarchy within underlying networks vary, Giustozzi goes on to argue that “[a]t the very top, all these networks are kept together by links of personal loyalty to the Amir al Momineen, Mullah Omar.” Obviously, such a conclusion has ramifications for conceiving of and framing a process for a political settlement and militates against the viability of piecemeal approaches toward the Taliban assuming continued resilience of a loose but enduring organizational structure.

He goes on to note that the “different networks that comprise the Taliban have somewhat different ideological leanings and allegiances, with some groups being more radical than others, or closer to the Pakistani armed forces and intelligence services, or again closer to trans-national jihadist networks such as al Qaeda.” This creates interesting internal dynamics:

For example, the “southeastern command” is dominated largely by the Haqqani network as already explained, which has very close relations with Pakistani Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence agency. This closeness is not appreciated by most other Taliban networks, who are either hostile to the Pakistani authorities tout court (what used to be known as the Mullah Dadullah network) or at the very least are unwilling to be controlled by the Pakistanis. In turn, the Haqqani network in particular has been trying to contain the antagonistic attitude of some of the more radical Pakistani Taliban leaders such as Baitullah Mehsud and his successors toward the Pakistani armed forces; Mullah Omar himself has made efforts to rein them in, although not as proactively. Some Pakistani Taliban leaders even have been supporting the Pakistani armed forces against Baitullah and other radical figures. 


Even taking such differences in account, he does not consider the Haqqani network to be separate from the Taliban comparable to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s organization, Hizb-i Islami. He bases that assertion on the cooperative manner in which the Haqqani network has expanded its area of operations throughout territory that included networks that were closely linked with Mullah Omar and the fact that this growth did not produce corresponding friction and turf battles.

Returning to the issue of negotiations, Giustozzi emphasizes that caution on the part of the Taliban with respect to a negotiations process might also be a form of prudence based on organizational self-defense: “the network-based character of the Taliban structure makes it all the more important for them to move cautiously with regard to negotiations; the leadership would not want the single networks or individual commanders to move towards talks in sparse order. The movement then would risk disintegrating.”

The whole report is well worth a read.

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we should not forget that Giustozzi also describes the complicated relationship between the Taliban and Neo-Taliban and Al Qaeda. He argues that the West’s denunciation of the Taliban’s treatment of women gave Bin Landen an opening.

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Taliban structure makes it all the more important for them to move cautiously with regard to negotiations; the leadership would not want the single networks or individual commanders to move towards talks in sparse order. The movement then would risk disintegrating.”

Even taking such differences in account, he does not consider the Haqqani network to be separate from the Taliban comparable to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s organization, Hizb-i Islami. He bases that assertion on the cooperative manner in which the Haqqani network has expanded its area of operations throughout territory that included networks that were closely linked with Mullah Omar and the fact that this growth did not produce corresponding friction and turf battles.
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I was wondering this information only.I can say Neo-Taliban is still very loosely related to each other and still a lot of local movements tied together.

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