Semple, Michael, "The Taliban Movement..."

Title: “The Taliban Movement and prospects for reconciliation in Afghanistan”
Author: Michael Semple
Publication Date: 10/1/2011
Abstract: Prepared as a working paper in October 2011, after the assassination of former President Rabbani and before the official acknowledgement of US‐Taliban political dialogue in Qatar. ---- The Taliban Movement is the most imagined actor in the Afghan conflict and over the years friend and foe alike have constructed images of the Taliban with scant reference to the empirical record. President Karzai alternates between imagining the Taliban as “upset brothers”i to make the case for reconciliation and declaring them as “without an address”, as a pretext for giving up on reconciliation. The competing portrayals of the Taliban can make good political rhetoric but each of them is empirically problematic. Any actor contemplating dealing with the Taliban should ground strategy on an understanding of the origins, development, dynamics and impulses of the movement. This article considers four aspects of the Afghan Taliban which together shed some light on the movement’s potential to participate in a political reconciliation process. The aspects considered are the movement’s cohesiveness, the emergence of alternative nodes of authority within the movement, the significance of the military campaign and the leadership’s willingness to embrace political pluralism. Together these aspects serve as an introduction to the political character of the Taliban movement and each of them has implications for how a successful reconciliation process might be structured. The basic point is that the best indication of the potential behavior of a movement such as the Taliban is found in its past track record and current organizational profile.
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