Foreign Policy Blogs

Amidst Local Government Absence, Taliban Develops A Shadow Government

The New York Times published an excellent expose on how the resurgent Taliban has resurfaced and consolidated power in parts of Afghanistan from which the government had turned away.  In the absence of a local consensus goverment the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the proper banner name of teh Taliban has established a shadow government that taxes residents, builds and runs schools and fields militant operatives who are able to pick fights with NATO ISAF soldiers.

The third battalion of the 187th Infantry Regiment has set up a task force to determine the extent of the Taliban’s reach in just one of those places in Eastern Afghanistan where the government has been missing for some years.

Here at length is what the Taliban have achieved, according to the Times:

The picture is of an underground government by local fighters, organized under the Taliban’s banner, who have established the rudiments of a civilian administration to complement their shadowy combat force. They run schools, collect taxes and adjudicate civil disputes in Islamic courts. And when they fight, their gunmen and bomb makers are aided by an intelligence and support network that includes villagers, who signal for them and provide them shelter, and tunnels in which to elude capture or find medical care.”

Here at lenght is how the Taliban have achieved their considerable success:

American officers said the Taliban’s influence grew in a vacuum: there had been an almost complete absence of government-provided services here since the Taliban were unseated in the American-led invasion of 2001.”

The fighters harass Afghan and American forces and pursue a campaign of intimidation against residents who cooperate with, or even acknowledge, the central government. Dressing as civilians, they battle Western forces with a familiar script: using small ambushes and makeshift bombs with minimal risk and conducting the occasional rocket or mortar attack.”

“They also have a support network, the officers said, of at least 4,000 civilians. The supporters provide food, shelter and part-time help, like passing false information to the Americans and signaling the movements of the battalion’s patrols with mirrors or thick plumes of smoke.”

Possibly more troubling: the report shows that nearly all the men killed in these Eastern parts of Afghanistan are local villagers and townspeople.  The task force seldom hears foreign tongues over the intercepted communication.  Moreover, the report suggests that the local Taliban fighters–who seem to be able to find and shoot off U.S and NATO supplied ammunitions–are taking directions from their elders in across the border, ensconced in Quetta.

So here’s the perfect storm: the Taliban are able to run entire villages and towns in pockets of Afghanistan that are close to Pakistan.  Those militants are led by and report to Taliban leaders in Pakistan, a country with whom the U.S. is not at war, at least officially.

Now this is perhaps old hat; but it bears repeating. And repeating.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

Great Decisions Discussion group