The Chaos Of The Afghan Taliban Leadership Essay

The Chaos Of The Afghan Taliban Leadership Essay

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The mayhem following Shahbaz Taseer’s miraculous escape from captivity in Afghanistan flags a serious communication breakdown between Islamabad and its instruments of statecraft. It also spotlights the increasing futility of using the term “Afghan Taliban” to represent a centralized militant umbrella engaged in armed conflict with Kabul and allegedly remote-controlled by Islamabad. Such a top–down model ceased to exist after the US troop surge in 2010. Moreover, reports of internecine warfare make it harder to separate friend from foe.

The militants have already moved in contradiction to Islamabad’s geopolitical interests at least once this year. This suggests the latter either oversells its influence on the Afghan Taliban leadership or that shifting power dynamics within the group have marginalized its pro-Pakistan elements. In short, it seems Islamabad’s rolodex on who to call in Quetta or Kunar when requesting intelligence or telegraphing instructions is not up-to-date.

Furthermore, the Afghan Taliban’s newfound rebel-mindedness is alarming in view of Sartaj Aziz’s recent, candid admission at a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) talk in Washington. On March1, Aziz, the Pakistani premier’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, gave the first ever confirmation by a state official that senior Afghan Taliban leaders were living in Pakistan with Islamabad’s knowledge and support.

"We have some influence on them [Afghan Taliban] because their leadership is in Pakistan. So we can use those levers to pressurize them to say, come to the table," Aziz told CFR. His admission did not surprise anyone at CFR, or indeed the White House where President Obama’s administration has long suspected Islamabad of keeping pliant Taliban factions under its th...


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...ld him nor recovered him.” When pressed to comment on reports that some Taliban had claimed as much, Mujahid stressed “This is baseless. We have not issued any statement as the issue does not relate to us.”

The real question is why someone in Islamabad or GHQ did not just pick up the phone as in the good old day and been apprised of the situation in less than five minutes? The Afghan Taliban, as Aziz admits, are trusty pieces in Islamabad’s toolkit to maintain its influence west of the Durand Line. Washington will without a doubt hold Islamabad to the promise of corralling client militants towards a peace settlement. Whether that is possible anymore is highly suspect.

With another Taliban spring offensive nigh and sections of the Afghan security apparatus against Pakistan’s role in any peace talks, Aziz’s admission may in reality have boxed Islamabad into a corner.

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