Leadership: Taliban Reorganizes


January 17, 2006: In order to more effectively oversee operations in Afghanistan, the Taliban appears to have divided the country into two "theaters," each under a senior commander. Operations in the northern and eastern part of Afghanistan are being run out of Peshwar, some 80 kilometers or so inside northern Pakistan, while operations in the southern and western areas are apparently commanded from Quetta, about 80 kilometers inside central Pakistan.
Subordinate to each "theater" are a number of regional commands, each consisting of several provinces. In addition, each province appears to have an individual commander. This organization even seems to reach into provinces where the Taliban has essentially been defeated. Apparently there are "sleeper" networks in many areas where there is no overt Taliban activity.
Actual day-to-day operations are apparently conducted with relatively little control from above, given the difficulties of communicating between higher headquarters and operational bands. This communications difficulty may contribute to apparent tensions between the Taliban's central leadership and Taliban personnel actually engaged in operations. This tension is most obvious in the contrast between the central leadership's apparent distaste for suicide operations and the increasing frequency of such attacks in Afghanistan.

That tension may also be fueled by the influence of Al Qaeda, which apparently still has some operatives in Afghanistan. The spectacular nature of Al Qaeda's suicide attacks in Iraq may be influencing younger, lower level Taliban commanders to resort to similar tactics. In this regard, the Taliban's central leadership reportedly has decided it would prefer that "foreign" fighters - mostly Al Qaeda-recruited Arabs and Central Asians - keep out of the country. It is unlikely that the Taliban will actively oppose the movement foreigners into Afghanistan, and thus risk a dangerous break with Al Qaeda, but the Taliban leadership seems inclined to discourage further foreigners from volunteering to serve in Afghanistan.


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