The Taliban are attempting to exert tighter control over weapons in the country, drawing on the policies of the Republic of Afghanistan. To the extent that it is possible to draw conclusions from pilot field investigations undertaken in late 2022, it appears that the central authorities have improved the security around large weapon stockpiles. The management of weapons in circulation, however, remains limited, especially when it comes to the arms in the hands of Taliban commanders and the men under their leadership. Due to the culture that arose during the insurgency phase of the Taliban, commanders consider most of their weapons—both their own and those provided to the men under their command—as personal property. The degree to which Taliban commanders resist the central authorities’ efforts to register their weapons is in part a function of local power dynamics and lines of loyalty to Kabul and the emir that vary from province to province. But as of early 2023, it was not clear whether the central authorities could exert more pressure on local commanders to register weapons without encountering serious resistance.
For these reasons, investigations that seek to understand and monitor the risk of arms proliferation in, from, and to Afghanistan should focus not only on price information and the availability of weapons in markets in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and partnerships and conflicts with other non-state armed groups in the region, but also on the political economy of the Taliban themselves: their ongoing attempts to evolve from an insurgency to a government, and the internal fault lines between different power centres, as well as between the periphery and central political and religious authorities. Future research should therefore continue to assess both the internal dynamics of the Taliban and their relationships with external state and non-state actors.
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