Mullah Wars
: The Afghan Taliban between village and state, 1979-2001

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Many articles and books have been written about the Taliban, but much of this has been polemic in nature and has ignored the growing mass of primary source material that is available to the interested researcher.

From Ahmed Rashid to Bruce Riedel, accounts of the Taliban movement have been a mixture of theory attached to a limited and continually repeated set of anecdotal evidence and highly detailed reportage from time spent together with the Taliban. Moreover, researchers often come with preconceptions relating to the Islamic nature of the movement, and find it difficult to offer a balanced perspective; politics is seen as politics, whereas for the Taliban, culture is also a form of politics.

I explore the evolving identity of the Taliban movement through its history, using a translation and exploration of the primary sources (including new interviews) relating to the movement which have not thus far been given a proper airing. Where did the movement that emerged in 1994 come from, and to what extent was the leadership rooted in the experiences of the 1980s jihad as carried out in Loy or greater Kandahar? How did this movement change during its six years of rule in Afghanistan, whether as a result of internal or external influence? What were the sources of the movement’s power within the country, and to what extent were these cultural, religious or political?

This is a study of what the Taliban movement themselves have issued as statements of their identity (from political messages to statements with cultural resonance) as opposed to research borne out of rumour and guesswork. It is a study of ideals (and their compromise) and how these strands have shifted and changed over time, taking as a primary assumption the fact that the Taliban are not a static entity.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAnatol Lieven (Supervisor) & Rudra Chaudhuri (Supervisor)

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