The Taliban and the Changing Nature of Pashtun Nationalism

January 10, 2019 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Tags: AfghanistanTroopsWarTalibanTerrorism

The Taliban and the Changing Nature of Pashtun Nationalism

The resurgent Taliban are driven only partly by religion. They are motivated equally, if not more, by the search for Pashtun dignity and revenge.

Therefore, it is important that the Taliban must be consulted and included in the construction of any future dispensation in Afghanistan if it is to remain viable. The Trump administration is cognizant of the fact that the Taliban cannot be wished away and that a durable peace in Afghanistan can only be constructed on the basis of their participation. Washington has reached this conclusion both on the basis of the Taliban’s demonstrated staying power and its ability to disrupt any political order that does not satisfy at least some of its goals.

Consequently, the U.S. president’s special envoy for Afghan Peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met with representatives of the Taliban in Qatar twice in recent months. Whether these meetings will bear fruit is anybody’s guess. But it is a healthy sign that Washington has finally woken up to the fact that the Taliban is an indispensable part of the Afghan political landscape and must be included in the fashioning of the country’s political future. However, the U.S. administration has to go beyond merely recognizing the disruptive capacity of the Taliban and realize that they do genuinely express the political goals of a substantial segment of the Pashtun population, by far the largest ethnic formation in Afghanistan, and that Afghanistan cannot be ruled effectively without adequately satisfying Pashtun aspirations.

Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and a senior fellow for the Center for Global Policy. His books include The Many Faces of Political Islam and, most recently, Will the Middle East Implode and editor of Assessing the War on Terror .

Image: Reuters