Taliban should Strive for a Hybrid Victory

Author Name: Dr Zia Ul Haque Shamsi      27 Jul 2021     Regional security/Region

The fundamental difference between the Taliban under Mullah Omer in 1996, and the Taliban under Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, is perhaps political legitimacy. Despite being the founding leader and an extremely popular figure within Afghanistan, Mullah Omer could not earn the much-needed political legitimacy, particularly in the western capitals. Hence, the then Taliban government was only recognised by three states: Saudia Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan. Whereas, today’s Taliban, in spite of having fought and defeated the US and the NATO forces in a long-drawn war of two decades, have cleverly earned political legitimacy by signing Doha Agreement on February 29, 2020.

Even though the US did not recognise the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and called them Taliban, the Agreement of Peace to Afghanistan quietly accord them legitimacy as a political entity. While signing the Doha Agreement, the US agreed to “seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and…not intervene in its internal affairs.”

The only thing that the US has sought assurances from the Taliban is that Afghan soil must not be used for planning any kind of harmful acts against the US. By signing this Agreement, the Taliban have accepted the US demand of keeping Afghan soil clear of nefarious elements. Other conditions included the US agreeing to “request the recognition and endorsement of the United Nations Security Council for this agreement.” This signified the Taliban were accorded political legitimacy, in spite of the Afghan government. Kabul was not the signatory of this important Agreement, signed in front of some 22 high-level delegates from around the world in Doha, Qatar on February 29, 2020.

Why am I suggesting that the Taliban should strive for a hybrid victory is because they must win military in Afghanistan, and politically abroad! A military victory inside Afghanistan appears highly likely and muck quicker than anticipated. Yet, it should be peacefully sustainable so that the Taliban do not have to keep fighting a civil war.

Taliban’s quest for hybrid victory now rests on the successful organisation of intra-Afghan dialogue, which is still far from happening. In the meantime, the Taliban are swiftly advancing and capturing major cities and towns without too much resistance from the US-trained Afghan armed forces. The US has already spent billions of USDs of its taxpayers’ money on helping this army gain its feet. This is the second part of the Taliban’s hybrid victory.

The only bone of contention now is whether the Taliban would wait for the successful organisation of intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations to form a new government, or forcefully capture Kabul and declare the formation of a new government in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In case the Taliban become impatient and enter Kabul by forcing out President Ghani from the capital, they might lose the hard-earned political legitimacy. One, that could be extremely beneficial in the recognition of their government in due time.

I fear that the Taliban’s political victory might be overshadowed by a military offensive for the want of a quick takeover of Kabul and then looking around for recognition through diplomatic overtures. However, this may not come cheaply. Therefore, even if the Taliban are not facing too much difficulty in adding territories under their administrative control, they must fulfil the obligation of getting legitimacy from the Grand Jirga, so the outgoing Afghan government does not win the sympathy of western capitals due to forced outing by incoming Taliban.

In my opinion, the Taliban should strive for a sustainable hybrid victory: militarily at home, and politically abroad; making the best use of some political legitimacy accorded to them. Taliban’s primary objective should be to achieve peaceful control of Kabul and the recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, particularly by the western capitals.

I may sound a bit simplistic but it is doable with some patience, pragmatism, political acumen, and a wilful accommodation to other power centres in Afghanistan. Taliban, mostly Pashtuns, must realise that they do not hold an absolute ethnic majority in Afghanistan. The beauty of this worn-torn country lies in its ethnic diversity. I understand that Afghans, by nature, do not like to share power, but it is high time a proportional representation to all ethnic and political stakeholders is willingly afforded to avoid another civil war that would be highly unnecessary and unfortunate for the people of Afghanistan. Moreover, this would be in line with Doha Agreement and the fastest route to achieve the much-needed hybrid victory for the Taliban. This would be highly sustainable and help them embark upon an era of peaceful development in Afghanistan, supported by the regional players along with some financial assistance by extra-regional powers.


The writer is working as Director Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies and a published author. This article was first published in Daily Times. He can be reached at cass.thinkers@gmail.com.


Image Source: TRT world. "Taliban-Afghan talks derailed over delegate row." April 19, 2019. 

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