The internal splits that threaten the Taliban’s rule

Dogmatically and brutally, the Taliban are learning to govern - but growing tensions between Kandahar and Kabul are its biggest threat, writes Hassan Abbas.

The World Today Published 28 July 2023 4 minute READ

Hassan Abbas

Distinguished Professor of International Relations, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, Washington DC; author of ‘The Return of the Taliban’ (Yale University Press, 2023)

Since the Taliban took control of Kabul in August 2021, two years seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. As Afghanistan’s government, the Taliban are still in their infancy, growing and adapting to their circumstances. But the question remains: now that this former rebel group rule has returned to power – a reality we have to accept – can it rule effectively and, if so, how?

The Taliban’s ability to govern depends on economic resources at their disposal as well as relations with their neighbours. To a lesser extent they are affected by the threats from Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK), the Salafi-Jihadist terrorist group, and internal fractures on critical policy issues. With no effective opposition, battles between Taliban hardliners and pragmatists represent a greater threat.

Only once we see how – and if – these challenges resolve themselves will we be able to imagine what long-term Taliban rule will look like.

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