Monthly Review recently posted an interview with Antonio Giustozzi, author of Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan.
In the interview, Giustozzi details some of the ways in which the Neo-Taliban differs from the Taliban regime, which was ousted from power in 2001. Specifically, he mentions:
- * A greater willingness to engage in diplomacy.
- * Use of guerrilla tactics and greater tactical expertise.
- * A more pragmatic embrace of technology
- * A less personality-driven leadership and a more institutional decision-making process
- * A less conservative attitude toward cultural issues such as music
Giustozzi also describes the complicated relationship between the Taliban and Neo-Taliban and Al Qaeda. He argues that the West’s denunciation of the Taliban’s treatment of women gave Bin Landen an opening:
Have the relations with Al Qaeda and foreign jihadists who have come to Afghanistan to fight, so-called “Arabs,” changed?
In 1998, the Taliban were on the verge of expelling the “Arabs” from Afghanistan. But around 2000-2001, their relations became closer. What happened? This radicalization can be explained by the failure of their attempt to open up to the world. The Taliban had made gestures. They had, for example, prohibited the cultivation of opium. They believed that the restoration of stability of Afghanistan under their aegis, in addition to the prohibition of opium, would make them acceptable in the eyes of the Americans. They were wrong. They overlooked a fundamental point: the rights of women. They never imagined that the West would make a big issue of it, justifying sanctions. This failure discredited the moderates and bolstered the radicals. Bin Laden really benefited from this failed attempt at overture.
The Neo-Taliban maintain ambiguous relations with Al Qaeda. Of course, they can cooperate, accept its money, its support. At the same time, they do not wish to be fully integrated with Al Qaeda or aligned with its ideology.