Much has been written about the Taliban’s links to Al Qaeda since 2001, but there is little consensus. Based on more than 100 interviews with insurgent commanders and others, this report examines the Taliban’s strategic calculus for maintaining their links to Al Qaeda.
Interviews with Taliban fighters and commanders suggest that a mix of interests sustains Taliban–Al Qaeda links, including material reciprocity, camaraderie and legitimacy concerns.
Many of these links are individual rather than institutional, and the nature of these relationships varies across the movement.
The Taliban leadership has been unwilling to confront or overtly act against Al Qaeda or other groups. Seeing Al Qaeda as a severely diminished force, the Taliban are confident that they can keep it in check.
Now that the Taliban have taken power in Afghanistan, a rethink of the international community’s approach on this issue is urgently required. Understanding the group’s interests, constraints and pressure points is essential.
This working paper is an output of the Centre for the Study of Armed Groups at ODI. The Centre provides rigorous analysis, tailored solutions and a safe space in which to discuss the challenges of understanding and engaging with armed groups.