The Taliban, the UN and al-Qaida

Posted: 30th October 2009 by Anne Stenersen in Afghanistan, AQ Leadership, Taliban

(Editor’s note: Anne tried to post a comment on Vahid Brown’s landmark post on Al-Qaida-Taliban relations. Given that she is one of the world’s foremost experts on this issue, there was no way I was going to let her remarks “disappear” into the comments section. So here they are. Her text begins with a response to an earlier comment about Taliban’s view of the UN).

“Mullah Omar’s statement should not be interpreted to mean that he or other Taliban leaders are ready to recognize the United Nations. In fact, the Taliban’s leaders have criticized the UN on a number of occasions, in addition to the one you mention. In 2006 Mullah Omar accused the UN of being nothing but a “tool for America” and Mullah Baradir echoed this in 2008, saying that “we regard all the decisions of the United Nations towards Afghanistan, as American orders.” I do not think their 12 Oct 09 statement was issued as a direct response to forum criticism, since it is pretty consistent with the Taliban’s past propaganda statements on the UN.

From the Taliban’s perspective, opposing the UN and wanting to have “good relations” with neighbouring countries are not necessarily contradictory. In the 1990s there was a huge debate within the Taliban regime on whether to join the UN or not – the main argument against it was that joining the UN would mean that the Islamic Emirate would have to subordinate itself to “infidel” laws (the UN Charter, etc). Having strategic alliances with other countries is another matter, which may also be easier to defend from a religious point of view (this seems to be the point of the al-Sumud editors as well). But clearly, there are many within the wider jihadi community who do not agree to this distinction.

By the way, excellent article Vahid – I agree that AQ central are probably not too happy about the Taliban-IEA’s recent propaganda statements, although I do not think it will have any practical implications for the insurgency – there is simply not enough incentive for neither the Quetta Shura or AQ central to “turn on” the other as long as there is a common enemy to fight and the Quetta Shura see themselves in a position of strength (i.e. there is no need for them to enter into negotiations with the Afghan regime, in which they would probably have to renounce their relationship with al-Qaida). Al-Qaida’s close relationship with Haqqani (as you mention in the comment) is also a crucial point – while the Quetta Shura may not be dependent on al-Qaida they are indeed dependent on having Haqqani and his allies on their side. That may partly explain why the Quetta Shura is putting up with al-Qaida propaganda that contradicts their own agenda.”

  1. I, for one, don’t see a problem with Taliban refusing recognition to the UN. There are many voices in Israel who also demand divestment from that institution. You cannot seriously take an organization with 52 Muslim members, where Tuvalu has the same vote as the United States.

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