This report examines the evolution of the Taliban case for armed struggle and the minimal adjustments Taliban rhetoricians made to cope with the impending political change in Afghanistan in 2014. It considers how the Taliban might make a case for peace, should they take the political decision to engage in negotiations.
The Taliban movement commands the loyalty of thousands of Afghans and applies resources and men to the pursuit of political objectives, guided by doctrine and inspired by rhetoric. Taliban rhetoric consists of religious and historical references, narratives of recent events, and guidance for Taliban sympathizers. The rhetoric asserts that the Taliban are engaged in a righteous jihad aimed at establishing a divinely ordered Islamic system in Afghanistan. Taliban doctrine focuses on internal affairs and in particular on maintaining cohesiveness. The Taliban are ruthless in enforcing their doctrine of obedience to the amir, or leader. The movement has retained a narrow social base, and its power is concentrated in the hands of mullahs from the Kandahari Pashtun tribes. Any project to build a plural Afghanistan is likely to include an appeal to the Taliban or the constituency they have mobilized. The Taliban’s own attempts to regain power rest on a negation of pluralism, rejection of a popular mandate, and assertion of the divine right vested in their Islamic emirate. A Taliban rhetoric of peace would require addressing the position of the Taliban’s amir, peace as a desirable state, the need for cohesiveness and unity in support of peace, celebration of the withdrawal of foreign troops, Islamic credentials of the government in Kabul, protection of those who sacrificed for the Taliban, peace as conclusion of the jihad, and the new role for the Taliban’s cadres. After 2014, the Taliban leadership is vulnerable to a hard-line challenge arguing that the political system in Kabul is irredeemably compromised by its collaboration with unbelievers.
In United States Law and Policy on Transitional Justice: Principles, Politics, and Pragmatics, Zachary D. Kaufman, J.D., Ph.D., explores the U.S. government’s support for, or opposition to, certain transitional justice institutions. By first presenting an overview of possible responses to atrocities (such as war crimes tribunals) and then analyzing six historical case studies, Dr. Kaufman evaluates why and how the United States has pursued particular transitional justice options since World War II. This book challenges the “legalist” paradigm, which postulates that liberal states pursue war crimes tribunals because their decision-makers hold a principled commitment to the rule of law. Dr. Kaufman develops an alternative theory—“prudentialism”—which contends that any state (liberal or illiberal) may support bona fide war crimes tribunals. More generally, prudentialism proposes that states pursue transitional justice options, not out of strict adherence to certain principles, but as a result of a case-specific balancing of politics, pragmatics, and normative beliefs. Dr. Kaufman tests these two competing theories through the U.S. experience in six contexts: Germany and Japan after World War II, the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, the 1990-1991 Iraqi offenses against Kuwaitis, the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Dr. Kaufman demonstrates that political and pragmatic factors featured as or more prominently in U.S. transitional justice policy than did U.S. government officials’ normative beliefs. Dr. Kaufman thus concludes that, at least for the United States, prudentialism is superior to legalism as an explanatory theory in transitional justice policymaking.