In a recent article, Antonio Giustozzi explains how the Taliban have improved their command & control structure. He describes how, under the military pressure of the US and NATO, and with the support of Pakistan’s ISI, the Taliban leadership has become more in control of the movement; and how this centralization alienates some local Taliban commanders and increasingly the population, who now have to deal with rotating commanders instead of well-known local strongmen (‘the devil you know’). Pakistani influence over the Taliban has always been terrible for the movement’s legitimacy among Afghans. On the other hand this centralization has allowed the Taliban to improve their governance and also their public image, as less brutalities are committed in the name of the movement.
This probably explains how they have come to the negotiating table in Qatar. I still think it’s a ploy, to make the international community feel good about leaving (‘they’re talking now – we can go’), since the Taliban are pretty confident they can boot the Afghan Army and Karzai’s regime, in exactly the same way Najibullah was swept from power in 1992, three years after the departure of the last Soviet troops. I was nevertheless amazed how they had come up with the required unity and consensus at the base to even pretend they’re engaging in talks with the government and the US. That shows they’re getting closer to ‘becoming fit to govern’. (More information about the Taliban delegation in Doha and what/who it represents by Kate Clark here)
Then I read the amazing banking blog by Joris Luyendijk. After years of reporting on conflicts in the Middle East, he got sick of the stereotypes he was forced to perpetuate for the Dutch media, and decided to spend time in London’s City, reporting on its population as an anthropologist. It delivers some wondrous insights into the social habits at the very core of our international system of power. His latest post describes the regime of terror senior bankers maintain over junior staffers, complete with apparently random dismissals (to strike fear into everyone’s hearts) and constant bullying and exploitation.
It makes one realize that the reign of economic and labor terror that is spreading quickly throughout the Western world, with indebted citizens increasingly pitted against each other as they desperately seek rare gainful employment – while the rich are rapidly becoming more powerful – is not a coincidental development, some kind of temporary collateral damage; it is the essence of what is increasingly appearing to be an ideological project: the reduction of the world’s labouring masses into servitude and submission. In Marxist terms, a regression from capitalism to feudalism.
As Trevor Paglen, the American maverick artist and researcher, argues here, the global national security state that Edward Snowden has helped reveal is nothing else than a Terror State, whose sole response to civic unrest is becoming disproportionate police brutality.
To return to the Taliban, one has to fear that under the watchful eye of their Punjabi trainers, they will ultimately adopt the policies of the City’s bankers. Only for the purpose of trying to establish their power over Afghanistan in a manner that does not immediately provoke a renewed international intervention in the name of the ‘war on terror’. To make themselves respectable viceroys over their piece of earth, they need to be capable of inducing fear into their population. They sure know how to do that.