The Taliban: Islam, opium and the current conflict in Afghanistan. Understanding why the Taliban fight

By Moneeb Hafeez

This research is an attempt to understand the cause of the current insurgency in Afghanistan. The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic movement, are fighting a foreign occupation on what is perceived as a war on religious grounds. However when analysing the Taliban’s beliefs and actions such a notion does not hold.

Firstly the Islam versus the West paradigm that forged the theoretical underpinning of the War on terror is not as applicable to the Taliban. The idea the Taliban is an anarchistic movement that is a threat to Western civilisation is short-sighted. Understanding the group’s beliefs and ideology reveals their true objective.

Secondly the Taliban are involved with the Opium economy of Afghanistan this given the Islamic ideology of the Taliban seems rather contradictory. Many theories support the idea that the cause of conflict is often motivated by economic benefit and not ideology. As well as being motivated by economic benefit, the other aspects of war given the breakdown of legitimate sources of funds is the need to fund the war. Hence insurgents resort to criminality to fund their activities.

After analysing the Taliban to find the Taliban are a hybrid unique group motivated by a combination of beliefs and self interests these cannot be categorised amongst broader Islamic movements.

The Taliban: Islam, opium and the current conflict in Afghanistan – Understanding why the Taliban fight