The Taliban regime is going to stay, and if you think it cannot get more extremist, wait for it — it can
The Taliban are not moderating themselves; what is the solution, then?
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan on August 15th, 2021, sent shockwaves through the international community, with many expressing concerns about the group’s extremist views and actions. Many inside Afghanistan also remain in disbelief. On Afghanistan’s social media, I see many arguing that the Taliban cannot continue the way it governs, killing everyone who questions their rule, and implementing a complete gender apartheid that restricts women within house walls. While some have hoped that the Taliban would moderate their policies and approach to governance, there are several reasons why it is likely that the Taliban will become even more extremist in the coming years.
Firstly, many have assumed that the Taliban will split or change due to pressure from external factors or domestic realities. So far, that is not happening. The Taliban is a highly cohesive and ideologically-driven group unlikely to splinter or change its fundamental beliefs. The Taliban’s leaders and fighters have a strong sense of identity and purpose and are willing to go to great lengths to defend their cause. Therefore, it is wishful thinking to expect the Taliban to be divided into moderates and extremists, as happened in Iran after the 1979 Iranian revolution. When the clerics took power in Iran, a deep dividing line existed between them. Some of them believed that after the revolution, the clerics should go to their seminaries and mosques and let the affairs of governance be handled by politicians and bureaucrats. Another group, like what has become known as principlists that hold power in Iran, remained firm in their grip on the state apparatus, arguing that by controlling the state machinery, the clerics could lead society towards religious salvation, whatever that may be. That split does not exist among the Taliban. Since the Taliban is far less educated than the Iranian clerics, a moderate interpretation of Islamic governance is less likely to emerge.
Secondly, the Taliban fighters have lost many friends and family members over the years fighting NATO forces and the US-backed government. This…