A recent survey by an aid organization in Afghanistan said majority of Afghans believe poverty and government corruption are the main reasons behind the conflict. As a general assumption, it’s true that majority Afghans are of the view that all their problems are rooted in poverty. The Oxfam report “The Cost of War, Afghan Experiences of Conflict, 1978—2009” gives a surface understanding of the outlook of common masses in Afghanistan, which, as the report says, has always been absent from the mainstream media reporting and analysis on Afghanistan conflict. But the survey, as it says, does not depict view of majority Afghans across the country. It was conducted in 14, out of 34, provinces of Afghanistan interviewing 704 people . It gives a good understanding of common public outlook towards their problems in Afghanistan, but an in-depth study of public opinion on domestic issues of Afghanistan needs a more detailed research and field work with broader geographical extent across all parts of Afghanistan considering the ethnic behaviors, regional attitude and areas more acute to Taliban insurgency—South and southeast.
As far as some common foot-soldiers of Taliban are concerned, poverty and government corruption could be main reasons for them taking up arms, but this is not the case with ideological fighters of Jihad, the suicide bombers and the lower, middle and higher level leadership of Taliban. If it was so, then most suicide bombers would have come from Daikundi province as it isthe most isolated province where above 80% of the population live below poverty line.
These militants are neither poverty-hit, nor they have taken up arms against civilians and government due to corruption and other reasons. They are the ideological fighters of the “holy war”. Such people are called Takfiris, who believe they are fighting a holy war of Islam against all the Kafirs (infidels). The word Takfir is derived from Kafir which means impiety of all non believers of Islam. Takfiris declare all Muslims as infidels, who keep mum against a non-Islamic government. They believe killing of such Muslims are legitimate. It’s therefore that most suicide bombers in Afghanistan and Pakistan blow themselves in public places killing hundreds of civilians. These people are mostly followers of the Salafi Takfiris, who consider all acts of violence as legitimate move for the right cause. They are also of the view that when a person blows himself in Jihad (suicide bomber), he is martyred.
The Takfiri movement of belief came to Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan with the arrival of Arab members of Al-Qaeda. Before the influence of Al-Qaeda in this region, there was no suicide bombing. During the Afghan resistance against Soviet forces, Mujahideen, who were fighting with stronger faith and belief compared to today’s Taliban or Al-Qaeda members, never used suicide bombing against Soviet forces. For the first time in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda trainers during the last years of Taliban rule recruited international and Taliban suicide bombers in their camps in Afghanistan.
After the ouster of Taliban and arrival of the US forces in Afghanistan, there was no insurgency or any major incident of suicide bombing till 2003, when in Feb 2003 Osama Bin Ladin called for suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When the birthplace of Taliban, Kandhar city fell on December, 07 2001 and Mullah Omer along with Al-Qaeda leadership escaped, it was the time when leadership decided to halt resistance and go underground. The comeback of Taliban was only possible with strenuous efforts of Al-Qaeda leaders like Ayman-al-Zawahiri and Tahir Yeldosh, who trained the defeated Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in the tribal regions of Pakistan. By 2006, Taliban fighters with their Al-Qaeda trainers and masterminds were fully prepared for a fierce insurgency to start. On 17 January 2006 a ruthless Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah announced “Hundreds of Afghan Taliban mujahedin are ready for suicide attacks.” Then gradually insurgency went on rise with deadliest attacks. Taliban comeback was only possible with Al-Qaeda support and training.
In the discussions about separating Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the efforts can be effective till the foot-soldiers of Taliban, as many Afghans according to Oxfam survey believe, who have taken up arms due to poverty, government corruption and other non-ideological reasons. But one should keep in mind that during the last eight years, Al-Qaeda has extensively invested on Taliban ideologically brainwashing the youth from bordering areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda and Taliban have brainwashed thousands of youth for this “holy war”. All of them are not poverty-stricken, but ideologically motivated people who are ready to die for the target, and who believe that violence is a legitimate way for a “holy purpose”.
Recently about 50 people were killed in a suicide attack on a Mosque in Rawalpindi city of Pakistan. For the first time Taliban publicly claimed responsibility for targeting a Mosque. Though previously there had been many attacks on Mosques in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but militants were reluctant to take responsibility due to the sacredness of Mosque. Amir of South Waziristan Taliban, Waliur Rehman Mehsood taking responsibility for the attack said the Mosque in Parade Line area of Rawalpindi city was a Mosque of hypocrites and it was Masjie-e-Zarar—reference to the Zarar Mosque, which Prophet Muhammad had ordered to demolish.
Under the new strategy for Afghanistan President Obama has emphasized about negotiations with Taliban who are ready to give up. It will be an effective approach towards the common foot-soldiers who are yet not brainwashed ideologically with Al-Qaeda. But it’s a fact that a large number of Taliban militants are inseparable from Al-Qaeda ideologically. These are the people whom, as President Obama says, can only be defeated and crashed because they don’t believe on negotiations and peaceful ways of preaching their thoughts, rather think violence is the only way.