Transforming Taliban militia into a military force
TALIBAN Movement emerged on Afghanistan’s political arena in 1994when infighting amongst different Mujahedeen warring factions resulted in bleeding and protracted anarchy in the country.
The phenomenal rise and swift takeover of the country by the movement paved the way for peace and a rather cohesive and strong government in the centre.
However rigid policies and continued support to foreign fighters including Al-Qaeda hampered the image of Taliban leadership.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the Taliban government was dislodged and efforts were made by US and allies to build Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSFs) on modern lines.
In this regard a hefty amount of ninety billions was spent. However after decades log battle with Taliban Us entered into dialogue and signed a pact with Taliban for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
After drawdown of US and NATO Forces, Taliban were successful to prevail over ANDSFs and established their rule in the country on 15 August, 2021.
Reemerged Taliban now often known as Taliban2.0 are more cautious and are avoiding rigid policies of the previous Taliban regime.
They are reaching out to other countries for bilateral ties and humanitarian assistance. Different countries have shown their willingness to engage Taliban and established their diplomatic presence in the country.
Nevertheless, Taliban are unable to get international recognition. Taliban had demonstrated their fighting capabilities during their war against US and allied forces including ANDSFs.
Due to their Guerilla tactics and conducive terrain, and favourable operating environment, Taliban fighters were successful against desperate adversary forces which were more advanced in weaponry, and were better equipped with modern communication means besides close air support by world’s most sophisticated aviation assets.
Taliban take over and melting of ANDSFs regular forces has certain lessons for military strategists.
The core values such as morale, ideology, faith in commander and objective to be achieved are always guiding principles for soldiers to fight against adversary.
Whereas ANDSFs were equipped with modern means of war fighting they proved inferior to Taliban fighters in the realm of morale, ideology, cause and faith in the command.
The ANDSFs opted to fade away rather to offer resistance . Now the Taliban are in the helm of affairs. They are realizing the changing realities of the new era.
They are showing their intent to rule without indulging into controversies, which were central to governance of their previous regime.
Taliban defence minister Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob who is son of Late Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Founding leader of the movement, has expressed the intent of his government to establish a 150, 000 strong army, The strength of ANDSFs was approximately320,000 in April,2021.
Currently, Taliban are using infrastructure developed by ANDFs. This infrastructure includes training facilities as well.
The Taliban has also captured modern military hardware left by US forces at the time of withdrawal.
The Taliban are trying to recover unserviceable military hardware by indigenous efforts. Taliban are expecting military assistance from other states specially Qatar and UAE.
The Defence Minister has emphasized these countries for military assistance including payment for salaries for troops.
While Taliban are motivated to defend their country from all sorts of threats whether internal or external, a transformation of existing militia structure into standing army is imperative.
Taliban as militia fought successfully to attain the objective of dislodging foreign troops and their local support elements.
However, working of a standing army is starkly different from a militia. Militias are not governed by any rules, less disciplined and less cohesive.
Militias are often short lived and dissolve after achieving their objective or overrun by their adversaries.
Armies are organized to achieve national objectives. Rigorous training, chain of command and comradeship distinguish regular armies from loosely bonded militias and armed groups.
Nation cause and cohesiveness are hallmarks of the armies. Violence inflicted by / upon regular army personnel are governed by international humanitarian law of armed conflict.
Taliban currently are having eight corps out of which No 313 central corps is comprised of elite Taliban fighter willing to die by carrying out suicide attack on adversary.
The corps is tasked to protect Kabul airport besides sensitive installations including government buildings.
Current Taliban army chain of command is largely based on a militia working mechanism. The communication from central authority till battalion level is faulty and vague.
Whereas the Central Government in Kabul desires peaceful co-existence with neighbours specially with Pakistan, border issues such as one killing of Pakistani soldiers by Taliban forces in November, 2022.
These incidents are evident that the Taliban militia is facing certain capacity issues including lack of chain of command and availability of better communication system between headquarters and field troops.
The Taliban government is facing two potent threats, Islamic State (Khorasan) and National Resistance Front The . IS-K has carried out some of the worst attacks in the entire country and central Asian states.
NRF is largely based in the northern part of Afghanistan . The group is being led by AhmadMasood son of Ahmad Shah Masood, a famous Afghan fighter who fought bravely against erstwhile USSR invasion in 1980s.
Analysts are of the view that former personnel of defunct ANDSFS could join these groups for their livelihood, as happened in Iraq where former members of Saddam Hussein’s army joined ISIS for their survival.
A regular and disciplined army by Taliban government in Afghanis is still far from reality. Taliban legitimacy and acceptance by the international community is foremost to establish a legitimate government in Kabul to govern the country.
A regular army works under the ambit of constitution and legal framework which is missing from the current arrangement of governance by the Taliban government.
Taliban in current structure is a threat to regional peace and stability. Due to loose command structure, adherence to the global principle of centralized command and decentralized execution is being undermined.
Taliban are unable to contain foreign fighters, particularly the presence of militant groups such as TTP is a constant destabilizing factor.
International community should come forward and should try to constructively engage the Taliban.
This would result a more pragmatic Taliban regime with better relations with neighbours and more inclusive policies towards vulnerable segments of society, thus leading to stability in the region and more peaceful Afghanistan
—The writer is senior researcher Islamabad in based.