The concept of arms ‘ownership’

A key problem is that few weapons are seen as the property of the Taliban or the state; instead, most property is regarded as the fighter’s personal property, or the property of their respective delgai. During their time as an insurgency, Taliban commanders usually had to buy—or otherwise obtain—their own weapons, which they continue to use to this day. Fighters typically received weapons from their mahaz or delgai commanders. No centralized weapons inventory existed during the insurgency, and fighters did not typically obtain their weapons through any centralized mechanism in the movement.

Roughly speaking, Taliban fighters distinguish between three types of weapons: those privately obtained by the commanders and then distributed to fighters; those captured during the Taliban insurgency before 15 August 2021; and those obtained by commanders from the authorities after the seizure of the Republic’s weapons in August 2021. With the exception of the last category, weapons are generally viewed as private property. Commanders therefore often refuse the registration of weapons that fall under the first two categories.

When individuals and commanders are asked to register their weapons, they generally only agree to register those received after August 2021. They are typically given three options: to register their weapons and retain their position; to refuse registration, resign from their position, and leave the movement; or to register their personal weapons with a statement declaring that they are ‘private’ weapons. Taliban sources report that, when pressured, many commanders left their position rather than register their weapons.[1]

Powerful commanders, in particular, tend not to agree to register their weapons, and the ministerial leadership appears reluctant to challenge these influential figures. Some commanders may have registered a small portion of their weapons, but no one—in at least one informant’s view—registered all of them.


[1] Interviews with Taliban officials, Kunar, 12 December 2022; Taliban commander, Helmand, 14 December 2022; and Taliban commander, Kunduz, 5 December 2022.