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Glory At Hand

The Psychology Of  The Taliban

By Adeel Malik

December 08, 2008 "Information Clearinghouse" -- Just today, the Taliban have struck in the heart of NWFP (North West Frontier Province), inside Peshawar and set fire to 62 containers and other 100 vehicles that were going to deliver supplies to NATO forces inside Afghanistan. The attack just goes to show you that how much in control Taliban are of Pakistan.

 Since the Pakistan Army started its operation against Taliban in 2003 in the Waziristan region, the Taliban have humiliated the 4th largest army of the world, time and time again. There were a couple of instances in which several hundred Pakistan army troops were captured and traded for Taliban fighters inside Pakistani jails. The uncompromising General Musharraf who ruled the country with an iron fist and almost always had things go his way had no option but to negotiate with the Taliban. Whenever the negotiations broke, the Taliban captured more territory. The government was held hostage to the Taliban. The army could not launch a full scale attack inside the tribal regions for, if they did, the Taliban would attack key targets in main cities (example: Federal Investigations Authority HQ bombing in Lahore) or the Wah Cantt Ammunitions bombing in which they also claimed responsibility. The situation worsened until we reached the present situation.

The government suffering from increased attacks from the Taliban in the tribal regions and within the main cities decided to start a new kind of attack. After the ouster of Pervez Musharraf the new Army Chief decided, much in the interest of Pakistan, to go after the terrorists who were ONLY a threat to Pakistan. Many of those people were even funded by the CIA. (


USA angry with this ‘selfish’ attitude of Pakistan has started to violate the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan by using un-manned drone airstrikes. Although the strikes have only killed one major leader of Al-Qaeda, most of these un-manned strikes have only killed civilians notably women and children. The strikes however have drawn angry reactions from the Pakistani government and Pakistani people, however, not as angry as from the Pakistani military.

There have been speculations about a possible Pakistani government deal with the USA. The deal was that Pakistan would verbally denounce the strikes but will not do anything significant to stop them. In exchange the USA would let IMF grant Pakistan loans that Pakistan so desperately needed. ( ) However the media hype of this deal created a rift between Pakistani government and military. The Pakistan Air Chief Marshall said Pakistan can shoot down drone strikes if the government allowed it. ( Earlier the defense minister of Pakistan had said that shooting down US drones was not possible. Clearly, the military leadership washed off its hands of the affair by virtually saying, that they can shoot down the plane if the government allows it.

The media hype created over the attacks wasn’t merciful either. The media time and time again blasted the government for showing leniency over the drone strikes. After the attack happened in Bannu, the government summoned the US ambassador and gave a final warning. (  After that the attacks have almost stopped.

The Pakistan government much in the interest of its own people has turned defiant to the US government. Although publicly condemning terrorism like the USA, the government, however, has reviews its definition of terror and now considers only those people terrorist who are a threat to Pakistan.

Although US pressure is mounting and the USA is also getting India to pressurize Pakistan, it is unlikely that Pakistan will be a poodle of America anymore. After all, it’s hard to look up to some nation which is humiliated and on the verge of defeat. It’s difficult to take orders from a country which is in an economic crisis that seems hopeless.

Pakistan has openly admitted, probably for the first time in its history that relations between Pakistan and USA are not good. The Pakistan People’s Party, the most liberal and pro-US party has conceded the fact that relations between the two countries are as Prime Minister Yousaf R.  Gillani put it “dragging along.” 


One question that comes into mind is how can the Taliban stand up to and humiliate the most powerful armies of the world time and time again. The answer to that question actually requires at how we define the Taliban. I think a good definition of the Taliban will be people who are standing up against USA in Afghanistan, the context in which they are most probably referred in the mainstream media.

There are two types of people fighting for the Taliban.

1) People who are religiously motivated

2) People fighting for other reasons (mainly Afghan nationals dissatisfied or angry at the Afghan government for obvious reasons)

Now people religiously motivated include madrassah students from across the border and within Afghanistan and as far as German converts to Islam fighting for the Taliban. But that’s not the strength of the Taliban.

By Taliban own accounts people in the resistance who are true Taliban (meaning foreign fighters or madrassah students) do not compromise more than 30-40% of the Taliban. This goes to tell you something. The Taliban movement is not a religious movement anymore. It is a national movement.( And this fact worries the USA. By US’s own account US is ‘losing ground’ in Afghanistan. (

But there’s more to these people than just being multiethnic. They’ve got a big victory under their belt, a victory which crippled Communist Russia. We are not talking about USA fighting against ‘sheep’ armies of the Middle East in Arab-Israeli wars or the Gulf War. We are talking about war-veterans who know the Afghan terrain and who are undoubtedly the best experts of guerilla warfare. And who have trained thousands of willing, sincere fighters under their command to do their job in the mid to late 90s.     


Faced with the dilemma of facing a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan or leaving in retreat, the US government has publicly admitted that its stooge government of Hamid Karzai is trying to negotiate with the Taliban. The Taliban leader Mullah Omar has said that he will not negotiate with anyone unless foreign forces leave Afghanistan.

Just consider the irony of this situation. Just try to remember the countless movies that you have seen in which a senior US official says: “We do not negotiate with the terrorists!” And that’s the most important dialogue of the whole film. And now the situation has changed. Now those same people are trying to negotiate with the Taliban and the Taliban are saying: “We don’t negotiate unless our conditions are met” And that “We will kick foreign forces out of Afghanistan”.

The USA is desperate for a quick solution knowing that its economy is sinking and that wars are very expensive. This is especially true after a British commander in Afghanistan said that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won ( by military alone, but only through a deal with the Taliban. But will the Taliban deal? 

Taliban strategy

Let’s say you are playing the world number one chess player. In the beginning of the match the world number one says “Hey you know what let’s call this game a draw!” Will you agree Of course! But let’s take another scenario. Let’s suppose you have fought hard against this chess player. You have solidified your game and are on the verge of winning, the opponent then says “Hey let’s call it a draw!” Will you say “yes”. Of course not! The same is the case with the Taliban. They are on the verge of victory. Why stain the fabric of your glory? The Taliban are waiting. They are very patient. They know the longer the US stays in Afghanistan, more and more number of people will join the Taliban cause. If I am right, the Taliban’s best strategy would not be to give a sudden blow to the US and NATO forces, but rather a slow and painful defeat. This is exactly what they are doing. Except for a few large attacks the Taliban are using classic guerilla warfare to checkmate their enemy.  


With Pakistan being ‘selfish’ and not listening to the USA and I don’t think that is going to change and should change, the USA’s defeat is inevitable. But what will happen if we let the Taliban take over. Terrorism acts all around the world. A world in anarchy! Perhaps not!

When the Taliban were in power, Osama Bin Laden was not allowed to conduct any terrorist attacks outside Afghanistan. In fact, the Taliban were a comparatively responsible government when it came to foreign affairs (though certainly very stupid internally). Certainly their return would mean a lot of influence over Pakistan. But they already have a lot of influence over Pakistan right now. Pakistan is showing an attitude of indifference towards war on terror, in that it is least bothered who wins.

The Taliban have matured. At least they are certainly much more mature and objective-oriented than the current administration in Washington. People in power generally do become responsible after they achieve power. And giving Afghanistan to the Taliban would not be such a big blowback to the West. It’s who has the influence over Pakistan, Afghanistan’s nuclear armed nation that is the bigger threat to the USA. As of now, the Taliban have a great influence over Pakistan. They have a lot of Pakistani territory under their name already. They have their own sharia laws in the region. The Pakistan army doesn’t dare step into those tribal regions under Taliban control.  

But if Washington really wants to influence Pakistan, they should do what the Clinton administration did in mid-90s. Secure Pakistan’s democratic institutions. Give aid to Pakistan. Stop supporting dictators. Invest in Pakistan and let Afghanistan have it its own way. Defeat and humiliation might be inevitable and not what the West wants in Afghanistan. But it is what the West deserves!

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