Organized Anarchy: The Taliban Way of Governing

Daniel Costa

Assistant News Editor

Graphic by Kaicie Boeglin

It has been more than three decades since the Soviet Union’s vaunted Red Army evacuated Afghanistan. They left behind them a secular, communist government to take charge and maintain security and order in the nation. This government collapsed under the pressure of a civil war and the victor of that civil war was the Taliban.


Born from the ideals of Islamist scholars, students and jihadists, the Taliban attracted many adherents in the conservative countryside who wished to impose a strict interpretation of Islamist Sharia law. Many people also chose to accept the reality that Taliban rule would restore peace to the nation. Areas under Taliban rule did in fact guarantee Afghans a semblance of normality and peace.


That is, until the United States invaded. After 20 years of war, they left. The story is well known to even the most uninformed American. The ensuing chaos that follows the collapse of one government and the arrival of another was to be expected. However, many Americans underestimated the cohesiveness of the Taliban’s new government, and as a result many were surprised at the speed and efficiency with which they seized power.


The Taliban have been in this situation before. They continued to maintain a shadow government throughout their war with the Americans. In a way, the shadow government of the Taliban operated on a system of organized anarchy. This system combined a full out guerilla war on not only soldiers of the Western nations and Afghan government, but also on anyone who cooperated with those forces or lived lives considered perverse to their beliefs. The two often went hand in hand in the eyes of the Taliban.


In the rugged, mountainous regions of Western Afghanistan and the borderlands with Pakistan, Taliban rule continued as if nothing had changed. When the Americans withdrew the last of their 3,500 troops in August, the Taliban merely expanded this system to the entire nation from their regional strongholds.


Unsurprisingly, the Taliban instituted a government guided by Sharia law. “The Students”, as the Taliban are known in the Pashtun language, imposed laws that cracked down on freedom of expression, speech, and religion. The Taliban's track record is especially a cause of concern for Afghan women. Their crimes in this regard are well known, with a stark example including acid attacks on girls attending school.


However, the interpretation of Sharia law in the government of the 1990s seems different then their interpretation now.


The 20 year rule of the former Afghan government produced many individuals who became politically conscious. The Taliban knows they cannot rule the country with the same iron fist they used in their former reign. That might not stop them from trying.


For now, women are allowed to roam the streets with the religious hijab headscarf instead of the body-encompassing burqa. International aid groups have continued to operate in the nation, though their presence is tenuous. Women were even called to participate in government by the Taliban.


This appeal to the women of Afghanistan was then promptly ignored. According to the Associated Press, a governing council of all men, mostly of Pashtun ethnic origin with some Uzbeks and Tajiks, has been appointed by the warriors to govern the nation and restore some aspect of order. Thus far, Taliban enforcement of Sharia has been restrained, even moderate. Whether this will remain after they have consolidated their control over the country has yet to be seen.


Although the Taliban have operated guerilla governments in the rural areas of the nation for years, it is uncertain if they can evolve from their experience as warlords into administrators. A far fetched idea, most Americans would say.


There is also the economic state of the region. It is in shambles. The transition from a government of guerilla war to a government of administration is again a key factor in whether the Taliban government can not only consolidate its power over the region, but also ensure its legitimacy to foreign governments. China has already expressed their tacit support for the Taliban. An aid package costing $31 million has already been sent to the Taliban courtesy of Chinese President Xi Jinping.


However, most nations are hesitant to resume diplomatic ties with the embattled nation. After all, it is rather difficult to trust an organization that convinced young men to turn their vehicles into suicide bombs.


Nevertheless, the situation throughout the country has cooled. With the final evacuation of U.S. forces from the region, the Taliban ruling council has largely focused on consolidating their rule. With an apparent moderate streak running through the minds of Taliban leaders, many Afghans are breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of a government that may largely leave them alone. Still more are holding their breaths, fearing what may be the inevitable.


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