Almost two years after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the country faces multiple, overlapping crises and growing humanitarian needs. The Taliban, initially unprepared for the consequences of their military seizure of the country, have sought to strengthen their governance. They have broadly focused on securing and consolidating positions, preventing internal rifts (or at least the appearance of disunity), securing aid, and gaining international political recognition; however, tensions between competing factions within the Taliban, and pockets of conflict with armed opposition groups, such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), have presented concerns about stability and security.

Several dynamics impact the Taliban’s ability to both make and implement policy. A key factor is the movement’s inability to develop consistent or coherent policy positions on critical issues. The decision-making apparatus is not always consistent, and policies are implemented in an iterative fashion to respond to emerging challenges. The Taliban consequently work with the existing practices and rules that date back to the era of the Republic of Afghanistan, as long as there are no major objections to the substance of these policies.

Where major objections exist to some of these policies within Afghanistan, such as those related to female education, views also tend to be sharply divided about what should be done. In these instances, the emir has often made a unilateral decision that everyone is expected to obey. This is often not the case in practice, however, especially when unpopular policies collide with the realities of local politics. An example of this dynamic is the uneven application of the edicts on female education, and explains why many girls continue to attend secondary school with the full knowledge and tacit approval of local Taliban officials. In addition, internal struggles over power, status, and resources also shape the degree to which central-level policies are obeyed.

Similar dynamics exist with small arms control and need to be taken into account when analysing the Taliban’s efforts to register, regulate, and control small arms in the country.