Taliban: The Nature of the Beast

Contributed by Anwaar Hussain

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Some have romanticized them, others have idolized them, and yet others have abhorred them. All have feared them, however. Over the years, the Taliban have acquired an image of mysterious allure and danger, until the truth about them hardly mattered.With Pakistan Army now in the hinterland to obliterate the menace, it’s time to have a closer look at the nature of the beast.

Here is the situation.

A leading religious politician, who is usually a sitting partner with the governments in power, had once called the killing of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud  martyrdom (hint: the politician’s name starts with Fazal, ends at Rehman and can hardly breath because of thick folds of fat around his overfed frame). Then some say that the Afghan Taliban, at least, are fighting a war of liberation against the occupiers and are therefore heroes rather than villains. And then there are some strategists and media men who further fog up the lens by saying that there are bad Taliban but there are also some ‘good Taliban’ out there. And that these ‘good Taliban’ can be talked with.

Not withstanding the fact that the aforesaid is a lot of balderdash, the end result is that whereas pigeonholing the Taliban in a particular group would have been a rather simple task, it continues to elude the branding. The situation remains pretty confusing for a lay reader.

 And of their being Martyrs for any cause, or there being something called ‘good Taliban’ among them as some jokers suggest, the less said, the better.

After being sired by the United States, mothered by Pakistan, midwifed by a clutch of Middle Eastern entities and wet-nursed by a whole bunch of vested interests, the Taliban had fought another war of liberation in the past. That one was against the then USSR. The senseless savagery of their devastating rule in Afghanistan in the aftermath of that war of liberation still echoes in the region.

The fig leaf on the so-called ‘war of liberation’ that these gents are fighting over in Afghanistan will be lifted soon after the complete departure of the American forces. The melee that will ensue for capturing Kabul will be as bloody as the inside of a Kandahari pomegranate. This time around, after they have defeated the clay footed Johnny Bravos of the Afghan regular forces and taken over Kabul, the only improvement that one can expect is that perhaps the limbs will be chopped a little closer to the hands and feet and the women will still be flogged but with an officially issued stick of defined measurements, not just any stick.

And of their being Martyrs for any cause, or there being something called ‘good Taliban’ among them as some jokers suggest, the less said, the better. Were it not for ordinary human decency, one would have wished these clowns to have the Taliban’s long well honed knives hover just above their jugulars. And after a drone took out the knife wielder, one would have then asked them whether that was a good Talib or a bad one or a martyr. After such incidences, such jesters are known to develop an extra spring in their gaits while fleeing from places wherefrom the word Taliban is spoken.

So what is the truth?

The truth, perhaps, has always been far simpler. And that is that they are and were in fact nothing more than religiously inspired killers, ones who kill for the cause, fearless in business of death and ready to sacrifice themselves for that elusive, yet oft promised eternal glory. Religion is the golden shoe with which they have been beating everyone blue thus far.

The Taliban are a group of people that reveres gods of death, murder and vengeance. Some do not trouble themselves with worshiping any thing beyond their own ability to cause mayhem and butchery. Their strength comes from surprise and from their complete disregard for the rules of honorable combat. They, by their nature, betray those whose trust they have gained, kill women and children on whims, and strike terror into the hearts of an average decent human being.

Raised from childhood in the arcane schools of murder, where they learn to use their stealthy knives to mortifying effect, they serve the will of their lords in whose pay they remain until death. In their pursuit of an indefinable Caliphate, they long to usurp governments and sovereigns. They cling to their strongholds in far corners, dispensing rough and ready justice in remote villages and distant valleys. Their targets are the government’s local agents, the armies sent out to wage wars against them, clergy that does not toe their line and supporters of all the aforementioned entities. For them killing is not just a business tool but also a construct with which to spread terror, perpetuate chaos and preach their dark gospel.

What must be borne in mind however is that while murder is a part of their existence and legend, it is not the reason of their being. They are the fanatical followers of a cult that believes that theirs is the only straight path to enlightenment and all other thoughts, faiths and sects are wrong and wicked. They fervently believe that their god will prevail over all others and those who do not welcome the ‘true’ faith will be punished, either by them now or by their deity in the hereafter. But as that time is yet to come, the Taliban will remain ready in the meanwhile to kill and die at the command of their Emir.

The Taliban combine deadly skills with an absolute belief in the holy nature of the carnage they inflict. As devout followers of a central Emir, they know their cause to be correct and their actions as approved by their Emir. For this reason, recruitment is mostly done from illiterate, poverty-ridden classes that are assured of the ultimate pleasures of a promised heaven. Opportunities are also open to common rogues and thugs who wish to wash off their lifelong misdeeds with glorious martyrdom. Just like the assassins of the past, the recruits are encouraged to use hashish freely so they can occasionally enter into paroxysms of joy by hallucinating glimpses of an afterlife in paradise. The more hardened ones are urged to take opium to help them achieve warm feelings of contentment and wellbeing.

The real adventure for the Taliban is not the defense of their ideology, whatever that may be. On the contrary, they instantly transport into a heightened state of excitement when a real threat comes against those they serve. While they rarely pursue adventure for the sake of adventure, some Taliban are exceptions to the rule. They use the constant danger of adventuring life as a way to hone their killer instincts and associated skills.

The Taliban are masters of the art of terror. In this pursuit, their tools remain surprise and stealth, barbarity and cruelty, cunning and underhanded tactics. Along with other weapons, they carry these tools wrapped in a blood soaked pennant of faith. As a group, therefore, their absolute infidelity and wickedness makes them as dangerous as a pack of mad dogs. So fearsome is this combination of skills and tactics that they are now one of the most dreaded groups of criminals ever.

From foot soldiers to the higher ranks within the Taliban organization, the career path weaves through a pattern of a kind unimaginable by ordinary human beings. The higher the attributes of wiliness, hatred, abject brutality and ever-readiness for massacre, the greater are the chances of promotion. Specially gifted ones relish the particular cruelty of adding treachery and shock to routine slaughter they are sent out to commit. The more paranoid a killer, the higher he stands chances of rising in the Taliban’s rank hierarchy. Those who succeed in all these traits are ultimately chosen as the leaders. This can clear up why it usually takes so much time to find a successor to a sitting Taliban Emir when one is taken out. The potential candidate has to prove his credentials beyond doubt.

Perhaps no one has ever explained better than Voltaire the dangers inherent in extremist ideologies of any kind. He once said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”.

The pitiable foot soldiers of this organized guild, having been brainwashed into this madness through constant religious sermons since childhood, soon turn into zealots who kill at the pleasure of their leaders. Consequently, bound by divine spells, they turn into freaks that see no significance or method in their madness beyond the inherent pleasure of killing. The earlier this happens, the quicker they get into the race for leadership of their cadres.

The chief aim during training is to instill in the trainee the idea that though murdering in any way is useful and dreaded by the victim, it must also be done in a way that terrorizes the general populace. Through constant sermons, the recruit is convinced that the Talib is an executioner who kills out of a holy principle, that he kills not out of lust but for divine ideals. By the time the lines blur in his mind, his Emir has a slayer that is both professional and fanatic and is willing to butcher for the cause of his Emir at a moment’s notice.

From the aforesaid, two conclusions can safely be drawn;

  • There are no good or bad Taliban. There are just Taliban and they understand only the language of force.

  • There is no de-programming the zombies now. The only solution to the problem lies in rolling a military steam roller from end to end over the entire FATA and then taking immediate steps to drain the swamps of poverty and neglect that have accumulated over there for some decades now.

Mercifully, Pakistan Army seems to have finally woken up to the idea.

Perhaps no one has ever explained better than Voltaire the dangers inherent in extremist ideologies of any kind. He once said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”.

We all need to check our premises.

About the Author:

Anwaar Hussain is an ex F-16 fighter pilot from Pakistan Air Force. A Masters in Defense and Strategic Studies from Quaid-e-Azam University of Islamabad. He now resides in Canada. He started writing as a hobby some years back and has, since then, published a series of articles in The Pakistan Tribune, The Baltimore Chronicle, Defense Journal and a host of other prestigious publications and web portals. Other than international affairs, Anwaar Hussain has written extensively on religious and political issues that plague Pakistan.The reason for taking up the pen, in his own words, is, “For years I had been watching lies being peddled as truths in the name of God, king or country. I always felt that truth needed no crutches for it has neither a religion nor a nationality. It owes its loyalty only to its own unadulterated self. May the truth be our companion.” He can be contacted at airdance@outlook.com

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