James Forsyth

Hard-line Taliban are not ‘al Qaeda lite’

Hard-line Taliban are not 'al Qaeda lite'
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David Rohde’s account of being held hostage by the Taliban for seven months is a fantastic piece of journalism, I’d urge you to read the whole thing. One point in it struck me as particularly pertinent to the current debate about Afghanistan:

“Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.

Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.”

If Nato was to move to a more purely counter-terrorist mission in Afghanistan, the Taliban would quickly expand its control over various areas. As Rohde’s account show, it would be foolish to imagine that the Taliban’s ambitions end in Afghanistan. Instead, we would have a Taliban region committed to exporting its ideology and extremist view of Islam.