Taliban plans image makeover, announces formation of new national army; assures territory will not be used for attacks against others
The Taliban plans to create a new national army, said Taliban’s Defense Minister Mullah Yaqoob, adding the new force would be capable of defending the country’s territorial integrity
The Taliban plans to create a new national army, said Taliban’s Defense Minister Mullah Yaqoob, adding the new force would be capable of defending the country’s territorial integrity. Yaqoob said the new force would have ground and air capabilities. The acting minister also assured the international community and countries in the region that no one will be allowed to use Afghanistan’s territory to carry out attacks against them.
Yaqoob, 35, is the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar and is considered the top leader among Kandhari (southern) Taliban, the faction opposed to the Haqqanis, who dominate the northwestern part.
Addressing an event last week, Yaqoob is heard saying in a voice clip that efforts were being made to safeguard Afghanistan’s territory and airspace.
“We intend to create a national and independent army under the Ministery of Defense to defend the country with high values,” he said, adding, “We will attempt to equip the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the name Taliban uses for the country] the army with modern weapons.”
The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan on 15 August, toppling the US-backed Afghan government. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, which were trained and funded by the US for two decades, melted away amid the last Taliban offensive in the months leading to August.
Recently, the interior ministry, headed by the chief of the Haqqani Network, Siraj Haqqani, had announced the new intelligence agency, named General Directorate of Intelligence--renamed from the earlier the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
However, the Taliban’s transformation--from an insurgent force to a serious governing political entity with a professional army-- won’t be easy. And it is more so since the group has extremely limited backing from international players.
Earlier, Pakistan had even offered to help “re-organize” the Taliban forces and their intelligence section into a professional army and intelligence agency.
Even if Pakistan’s help materializes, Afghanistan, being a heavily aid-dependent country, would need financial assistance --one that Pakistan won’t be able to fulfill alone. Russia and China, the two most important players in the region after the US exit, are still testing the waters in the country.
Having fought a brutal guerilla war for almost two decades largely in the rural and mountainous hinterland, armed Taliban fighters unexpectedly find themselves in urban centres, especially Kabul and Herat ---the places they have never been accustomed to. Local media reports suggest they are still struggling to cope with their new role of maintaining civic order, which doesn't involve fighting.
People also suggested that the Taliban either disarm some of their fighters engaged in civic duties or create a new force for these tasks replacing them. The aggressive looks of the fighters-- many sporting long straggly hair, uncut beard and suspicious eyes -- are often frightening, many complained.
Fighters are also often accused of showing heavy-handedness while dealing with people, a problem well acknowledged by senior leaders of the group. The concern among the leaders is that the behaviors of the erstwhile guerillas was in some way impacting the group’s image.