Incremental Peace in Afghanistan
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What does conflict in Afghanistan look like to the Taliban and how can greater knowledge of how the movement functions inform better peace policy?
Misconceptions of the Taliban have complicated efforts to end the war in Afghanistan. A key example is the extent to which the movement represents the grievances of a significant section of Afghan society.
The Taliban are not unified. From inception the movement has included distinct groups with different views on national and international policy. But the core message of the central leadership has resonated widely: Afghanistan needs to return to law and order, and the Taliban are here to dispense security and justice based on Islam. The Taliban’s military conquest of Afghanistan has reflected their core belief that holding a monopoly of power is a precondition for the formation of a viable Afghan state.
The movement sees itself as inclusive – not aligned with any group nor based on ethnicity or a political programme but following Islam alone. The Taliban’s resurgence in the 2000s mirrored their initial rise to power, facilitated by widespread public discontent with the new government. They see themselves and the US as the real stakeholders in the conflict and so likewise in any reconciliation process.
The Taliban are perhaps less exceptional in Afghanistan than many people would prefer to believe, as they express a much broader discontent that is anchored in local conflict. The Taliban’s narrative of the conflict in Afghanistan is not an alternative history, but rather a missing piece of the larger puzzle of how to administer the country peacefully.