Who Are the Taliban: Clarifying Ambiguities — By Kasim Osmani on Pak Tea House com

Following is a translation of an interview with Dutch researcher Alex Strick van Linschoten about the Taliban. Alex is PhD student at King’s College, co-editor of My Life with the Taliban & The Poetry of the Taliban, and co-author of An Enemy We Created. The interview was originally published in Urdu on 2013/02/03 edition of daily Dunya.

Dunya: You are working on the Taliban and Afghanistan for last eight years. What persuaded you to choose these topics?

Alex: I visited Afghanistan as a traveler not as a researcher. I think it is an interesting place to visit. I wanted to know about this country. In the meanwhile, I developed good relations with northern Afghanistan and learnt Pashto language. I am also learning Arabic and Persian. When I met Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, I realized that we really do not have enough knowledge and understanding about the Taliban movement, although, too much is written and talked about them. Thus, I started research on different aspects of this movement and wrote three books. I am also working on some more books and programs in this regard. I am astonished to notice that the West spends a great amount of wealth here, yet it does not understand the Taliban and Afghanistan. I am trying to highlight the real problem.


Dunya: So what is the basic difference between the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban?

Alex: It will be easier to tell similarities between the two! Both of these organizations have different history. They emerged in different circumstances. Many of the TTP leaders have not fought in Afghanistan. Even they are not familiar with the top Taliban leadership. Although there is a complete background, the TTP emerged after 2001. Both the TTP and Afghan Taliban do have ideological differences. Their objectives and vision are also different.


Alex: So far the Taliban leaders I have met do not seem to have any issue with the current Afghanistan Constitution. A unanimous constitution is not the core issue of Afghanistan. There is a war in Afghanistan between two opposing groups. The problem is the game of political powers. This problem is intensifying because the money comes from abroad. Another reason is that despite a civil war, none of the Taliban warring factions ever talked about dividing Afghanistan. Their aim is to establish Afghanistan as sovereign Islamic state. Thus, a unanimous constitution is not the problem of Afghanistan.

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