Distinction between Afghan Taliban & Pakistani Taliban -- Are The Two Groups Fighting For Different Causes?

By Sikander Hayat

These days when we talk about Taliban, we tend to think that all Taliban are fighting under one creed and have similar motives and objective. I wanted to share my understanding of Taliban with the viewers of this site and when I looked at this issue, I came to the immediate conclusion that there cannot possibly be still a link between Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

The two movements started out simultaneously when the Americans attacked Afghanistan to get Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaida.
After the Tora Bora escape, Osama and his terrorist fellows slipped into Pakistan and sought sanctuary from the Mehsud tribe which was granted as per the ancient Pashtun customs that no one who come to your door asking for sanctuary be turned away. Osama and Zawahiri kept a low profile during the initial days of the war but after a while when the initially intensity of the war faded a bit, started to build a strong hold among the local tribes by marrying their daughters with the powerful clan members and vice versa. This was the single most powerful act with turned the relationship between the guest and the host into a partnership of blood and Mehsuds decided to fight on the side of Osama and Zawahiri.

Afghan Taliban for a while kept a link with the Pakistani Taliban but when the frequency of violence perpetrated by the Pakistani Taliban reached a high pitch Pakistan asked Mullah Omar and his associates to exert their influence on this group. Mullah Omar tried his hand by sending his emissaries to Waziristan but his request fell on flat ears and Pakistani Taliban refused to abide by any such undertaking.

Then onwards the two movements took their own differing paths and to resolve the issue successfully we have to understand that these two entities should be dealt with differently because of following reasons:

1. It is Pakistani Taliban who are protecting and sheltering Al-Qaida and not the Afghan Taliban

2. Pakistani Taliban are made up of groups ranging from Laskar-e-Jhangwi, Sipah-e-Sihaba, Lashkar-e-Toiba and has Punjabis, Pashtuns, Kashmiris, Chechens and Arabs in their ranks

3. The Afghan Taliban make up is almost entirely Pashtun

4. Pakistani Taliban are trying to stage a violent coup in Pakistan to overthrow the government and have a theocratic state Iran style

5. Taliban in Afghanistan represent a Pashtun insurgency which like Bathists in Iraq embodies a major section of society which was in power and was ousted from power by the Americans and NATO

6. Mullah Omar on number of occasions has distanced himself from the Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan and because of that refusal from Mullah Omar to endorse these gangsters, Baitullah Mehsud and two other groups have joined forces under the umbrella of Al-Qaida to fight against Pakistani state

7. Afghan Taliban unlike their Pakistani namesakes still listen to what Pakistan has to say because of their understanding that Pashtuns can only get a good deal in Afghanistan if Pakistan is on their side otherwise the Tajiks Uzbek alliance will keep them out of power for a long time to come.


  1. Very interesting and comprehensive comparison. More people should understand this difference.

    By the way, do you know there is a BJP/Advandi advertisement at the top of your site?

  2. It sounds logical, but I believe the real social boundary is highly permeable in both directions. I can't see the Afghani Pakhtoon being disinterested in the aims and welfare of his Pakistani cousin just across the illusory national border. It is certainly true that there are more foreign mujahedeen in Pakistan, as Peshawar has served as the conduit for such activity for four decades. Bin Laden wasn't always warmly received on the Afghan side as slick reporting would have one assume; there is great suspicion of Arabs among Pakhtoons in general, and back when the CIA was working with the Afghani mujahedeen, the latter had occasion to complain about the ideological extremism of the Arab / foreign fighters.

    Still, drawing such a bold line between Afghani and Pakistani Pakhtoons is probably unwarranted, at best an exercise in wishful-thinking.

  3. Wil Robinson & Marshall Lentini,

    Thanks for your comments.


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