The Taliban and al-Qaeda remain distinct groups that can potentially be separated through political means, a study released by the Center on International Cooperation (CIC) at New York University finds. “Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda: The Core of Success in Afghanistan” recommends engaging the older generation of Taliban leaders before they become marginalized by escalating warfare.
The study’s major conclusions are:
· The Taliban and al-Qaeda remain two separate groups with different goals, ideologies, and sources of recruitment. There has been friction between these two groups before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it remains today.
· Certain practices by the U.S. military, including night raids and attempts to fragment the Taliban, are helping to create new opportunities for al-Qaeda to reach its objectives to the detriment of U.S. core goals.
· Engagement of the Taliban in a political process has the potential to create conditions under which the Taliban would renounce al-Qaeda and agree to guarantees against the use of Afghanistan by terrorists, which the U.S. has defined as its core goal.
The authors, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, find that the older generation of Taliban, who presently still represent the movement, are potential partners for political negotiation. The authors warn, however, of the potential risk of the younger generation gaining momentum within the leadership. This shift could represent a new stronger bond between the Taliban and al-Qaeda and could pose an even stronger potential threat to the U.S. and the international community.
Tom Gregg, head of CIC’s Afghanistan Regional Project and a former United Nations official in Afghanistan, says, “Many officials believe that the Taliban and al-Qaeda share the same ideology. However, it is not an ideology they share; it is more a pragmatic political alliance. And therefore a political approach to the Taliban ultimately could deliver a more practical separation between the two groups.”
Free copies of the study are available for download on CIC’s website.
Gregg is available to comment on the study. Please direct all media inquiries to: Michele Shapiro (212.998.3688 or 917.658.6760, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Notes to editors:
· The Center on International Cooperation’s Afghanistan Regional Project has become one of the principal sources of analysis, public information and advocacy on selected issues related to rebuilding Afghanistan’s institutions, society and economy. The program is led by Tom Gregg, Senior Program Coordinator and Fellow. For more information on CIC’s Afghanistan Regional Project, to go http://www.cic.nyu.edu/afghanistan/index.html.
· Authors Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn are researchers and writers based in Kandahar. They have worked in Afghanistan since 2006, focusing on the Taliban insurgency and the history of southern Afghanistan over the past four decades. Their research extends to other Muslim countries, and they are regular commentators on major Western news channels.
· The project was made possible by funding from the Norwegian government.