Taliban 2.0: Stronger or moving towards fragmentation? - Hindustan Times
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Taliban 2.0: Stronger or moving towards fragmentation?

ByORF
Nov 02, 2023 06:53 PM IST

This paper is authored by Shivam Shekhawat from ORF.

Two years after the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, the debates around whether the group remains intact or has become divided have surfaced once again. In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Kabul in August 2021, there were speculations that the country could be going into a civil war or the Taliban would eventually come to a split. This brief analyses the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s resurgence in Kabul and weighs in on the ongoing debates about the group’s internal divisions.

Yosuf Noor was one of the 180 students at the the Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan school in Bhogal; (right) A protest against the Taliban.
Yosuf Noor was one of the 180 students at the the Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan school in Bhogal; (right) A protest against the Taliban.

The fall of Kabul was a massive blow to the United States (US) and its allies, with their reconstruction efforts and capacity-building initiatives coming to naught. Experience with the Taliban’s first rule (1996-2001) raised fears about the group going back on their commitments to the Doha Agreement and reprising their repressive rule, thereby undoing any progress that had been recorded in the preceding two decades. At the same time, some analysts expected a ‘Taliban 2.0’ that would be less brutal, with international pressure through financial blockades and political isolation possibly taming their extremist tendencies. In the subsequent months, however, the group showed its familiar policies on women and girls, press freedom, governance issues, ethnic minorities, and use of violence.

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The seeming invincibility of the group after their return to power soon gave rise to questions about the difficulties in transitioning from an insurgency to a government, their ability to govern Afghanistan as a modern-day State, and the organisational structure and strength of the group. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) took over an impoverished country mired in an economic crisis and receiving little foreign aid. Two years later, these difficulties have compounded. It would appear, however, that the IEA is in a better position this time around, with its growing diplomatic engagement with China, Iran, and Russia and other countries even in the absence of de jure recognition.

The Afghan embassies in approximately 14 countries now have Taliban officials in charge. While the terrorist threat of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) persists, the National Resistance Front (NRF) has failed to present a strong opposition. Despite sanctions and reduced aid, along with public recrimination for their actions, the group has refused to reconsider contentious issues.

Beginning with the formation in September 2021 of an all-male Pashtun-dominated cabinet, the group has aimed at rendering women invisible from public life. While these restrictions were initially said to be only temporary, women have still been unable to access their rights at the time of writing, and the continuation of the Taliban’s discriminatory policies is causing the erosion of the country’s progress in the last two decades.

This brief analyses the internal divisions within the Taliban to understand the implications of the reassertion of power by the Emir on policy-related areas and in clamping dissent, on the traditional differences over the Kandahari and Kabul factions of the group. By mapping the making of the so-called ‘Second Emirate’, with an emphasis on the formation of the Cabinet and the question of women’s rights, this brief attempts to understand how the squabble for power manifests in the group’s decision-making and whether the differences are potent enough to dent the stability of the IEA.

The paper can be accessed by clicking here.

This paper is authored by Shivam Shekhawat from ORF.

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