Leadership: A Taliban Generation Gap

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November 20, 2007: While it's difficult to evaluate the longer-term effects, there's a possibility that recent developments in Pakistan may help the situation in Afghanistan. With Pakistani Islamists focusing their attention on general-president Musharraf's crackdown, and probably on the Bhutto-led anti-Musharraf "liberal" movement as well, they are likely to be less willing to send men and money to Afghanistan. Most Pakistanis are hostile to the Taliban, and Islamic radicals in general. At the same time, the widespread disruption in much of Pakistan may impede the movement of non-Pakistani Islamists across the border. Even if Musharraf falls, the likelihood is that the Bhutto "coalition" would probably come to power, or perhaps an interim military junta, either of which would continue to draw the bulk of the Islamists' rage.

In the midst of all this, the Taliban are going through a major change in leadership. The old leaders made their reputations in the 1980s, fighting the Russians, or in the 1990s, as members of the newly created Taliban movement. The new generation are less religious, and more ruthless. These younger guys have no problem working with the drug gangs, or in amassing personal fortunes. At the moment, there are still plenty of old timers in play, and there has been growing hostility between some of the old school factions, and the young hotshots. But to most Pakistanis, as well as both Musharraf and Bhutto, the Taliban are the enemy.

 


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