The Military Cohesion of the Taliban | Antonio Giustozzi
It is generally accepted by those who have interacted with the Taliban as enemies or friends that the movement has remarkable esprit du corps; even Taliban detainees are very rarely if ever willing to dissociate themselves from the movement. On the battlefield, the Taliban did not always have the reputation of being tactically very effective, but were always very cohesive. At the same time there is evidence that the Taliban are internally divided in ideological and tribal terms. How do they achieve battlefield cohesiveness then? This chapter contends that the processes presiding over the formation of the combat group or teams holds the explanation for this.
The Taliban’s approach to cohesion was not static. In fact, it could be argued that the Taliban experimented with multiple avenues for increasing their battlefield cohesion, not always successfully. The nature of the challenges confronted by the Taliban varied greatly during the conflict. In 2002-5, the Taliban mostly confronted ill-trained and badly organized Afghan security forces and militias; the Taliban did not need at this stage to invest considerable energy in strengthening their cohesion. Their modus operandi during this period is discussed in the first section of this paper (‘The early days’).
Things changed in 2006, as the Taliban started being confronted by much more powerful western military forces and the newly trained Afghan National Army also started appearing in Taliban-held areas more often. The Taliban reacted to the challenge in a number of ways, and one of these ways was trying to improve their battlefield cohesion. This process is discussed in the main section of this chapter (‘Innovation’).
This paper is based on extensive research that the author has carried out on the Taliban over the years and through multiple projects, but mostly as part of an Economic and Social Sciences Research Council-funded project, implemented through King’s College London (Department of War Studies). During the project, about 180 Taliban commanders, cadres and leaders from 12 different provinces distributed across all of Afghanistan’s region (Herat, Faryab, Baghlan, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Helmand, Ghazni, Wardak, Khost, Paktika, Paktia, Logar) were interviewed about a range of issues, including (but not only) the issues discussed below, related to military cohesion.
The early days
The Taliban were utterly defeated during Operation Enduring Freedom, in late 2001. The movement disintegrated, with most leaders and many cadres seeking refuge in Pakistan, and with most fighters and low-level cadres trying to melt away in their home villages, hoping to be forgotten by the dominators of Afghanistan. Indeed interim president Hamid Karzai offered an amnesty to all Taliban except the top level leaders. The new local political elite was however largely made up of Taliban rivals and enemies, who immediately set out to seek revenge against former Taliban living in their areas, dragging into this wave of repression US forces engaged in the hunt of Al-Qaida remnants. Combined with efforts by some remnants of Taliban and Al-Qaida to keep the fight against the US invaders and their Afghan allies going, this wave of repression and revenge taking gradually pushed many former Taliban towards re-mobilization. Part of the Emirate-era leadership hiding in Pakistan increasingly felt motivated to re-establish the movement and assert control over pockets of spontaneous Taliban resistance, which were appearing in various locations in Afghanistan and just across the Pakistani border.
Reorganizing the defeated and demoralized Taliban into a viable insurgency did not prove an easy task, particularly since the Taliban were fighting in part a different enemy from the one they had confronted in the 1990s: alongside the same militias, which had fought the Taliban in the 1990s, were now the US armed forces. The Taliban initially lacked the skills to organizes a sophisticated insurgency, able to survive the advanced technologies the Americans were throwing at them. In particular as the Taliban started making major inroads in southern Afghanistan in 2005-6, US and allied forces started increasing their commitment to the fight. Military pressure on the Taliban grew rapidly in 2006-2010, soon showing how their military tactics and organization were inadequate to face the new challenge.
A process of adaptation started within the Taliban, a trial and error process characterized by numerous and even bitter debates. Until 2007, Taliban political authority and decision making was concentrated in Quetta. From 2007 onwards, however, things started getting more complicated as first the Haqqani network in the south-east (the leadership was based in Mairan Shah, Waziristan) declared its autonomy vis-à-vis the central leadership based in Quetta (the so-called Quetta Shura) and then in 2008 a coalition of other Taliban networks in the east also did the same (the Peshawar Shura). Until 2015-16, therefore, the evolution of the Taliban’s military organization was following quite different paths in these three centers of power.
The original Taliban insurgents of 2003-7 largely relied on personal networking as a source of recruitment. It was the cadres of the movement, who were old Taliban from the times of the Emirate, who were personally recruiting in their environment: their villages, their tribes, and most importantly their madrasas (since all Taliban leaders had a madrasa education background). Once recruited, the new Taliban would be personally loyal to their commander and follow him throughout deployments and the ups and downs of the struggle. This is known as the ‘andiwal’ system. This relationship was often defined by personal, familial or tribal ties, as expressed by the term andiwal (‘friend’, also variously translated as ‘comrade’, ‘brother-in-arms’), used to describe this relationship of men personally linked to their commander. The same type of relationship existed between commanders and the leaders of the large Taliban fronts:
First, i belong to Mullah Sattar, I joined Mullah Sattar. […] I accept mullah Sattar's word. We belong to Mullah Sattar first.
The most charismatic commanders, such as Dadullah, Faruq, Ibrahim, Dr. Wasi and Baradar, had their own following and were solely responsible for them. Typically formations of 300-350 men would deploy for operations throughout the south and neighbouring provinces such as Farah, Nimruz, Ghazni. In order to keep the andiwal system going beyond the death of a leader, typically a deceased commander would be replaced by a close relative:
The Taliban called me telling me my uncle was dead and to come and take his place. […] That is normal practise. the taliban leaders try to replace dead from the same family, otherwise they'll go for other people […] my uncle was in Janan's mahaz, i took his place when he died. Janan sends money, and we buy weapons from the people.
Often Taliban commanders recruited relatives and fellow villagers:
At the time when I joined the Taliban, a member of my family, I won't say who, was a top commander of Taliban in Sayedabad district. He came to me and told me about the airstrikes and the attacks and he convinced me to join the Taliban. If someone doesn't know the Taliban, it's very difficult for them to join. If someone goes and says they want to join, he will be followed and thoroughly investigated for a long time before he's accepted.
A consequence of this practice was that many non-madrasa educated villagers made it into the Taliban, particularly the local part-militias which were fighting around their village, and would hid their weapons away and merge back into the village when not called-up. In the early days of the Taliban insurgency, the Taliban relied mostly on these part-time forces, as they were not able to pay their men. It also represented an obstacle to the professionalization of the Taliban:
High ranking Taliban tell us to find fighters for our group and they pay for their logistics etc. When I find “Andiwal”, they are like friends with the group commander and while the group commander rotates he also takes his fighters with him, because the commander worked very hard to find like 20 or 30 fighters, they don’t leave their fighters behind. Commander with his fighters are like friends in the Taliban system and no one leave their friends behind, that’s why most of the commanders take their men with them when they rotate.
The personal relationship between a commander and his fighters gave cohesion to the Taliban combat group. The death of the commander, or his disappearance, would either lead to the disintegration of the group or to somebody very close to him taking over, typically a brother or a son. The kin relationship would allow for the transfer of the personal link of loyalty. Similarly if a commander would switch between different Taliban networks, his men would normally follow him.
From the perspective of the Taliban’s leadership the system had its limitations, particularly when losses among the commanders began to quickly increase from 2007 onwards. The reliance on charismatic individuals for recruitment and leadership was therefore becoming a weakness, the more so as replacing losses with leaders of comparable quality was becoming more and more difficult.
The Taliban had from the beginning of the insurgency quite strong group cohesion, thanks to the andiwal system. As their operations started becoming more complex, involving multiple groups, from 2008 that the idea of fomenting the creation of inter-group cohesion through training, discipline and indoctrination started gaining ground. The Taliban also started relying more and more on full-time forces, mostly recruited among Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The andiwal system had weaker roots (although by no means insignificant) among these Pakistan-based forces, forcing the Taliban to look at new ways to foster cohesion.
Efforts to instil some discipline in the rank-and-file had been going one for some time, since the introduction of the first Layha (code of conduct) in 2006, whose authors were Mullah Baradar and Ustad Yaser. The main thrust of the Layha was introducing rules of conduct which would apply to all the Taliban, instead of leaving the faculty of determining which rules applied to group commanders . A former commander in Musa Qala argued that the introduction of stiffer discipline was resented locally, as well connected local commanders had to give way to newcomers and even foreigners. From 2009 the recently established Military Commission started a major tightening of the screws in terms of disciplining. It took charge of writing and overhauling the Layha in 2009 (the first edition had been written in Quetta);  the 2010 version was further amended to specify that judges were to try Taliban members accused of serious misconduct or criminal activities, including gratuitous or negligent use of deadly force against civilians. Arbitrary executions were also banned and spies were to be tried in the Taliban courts.
There are different lines of thinking about the actual relevance of these decrees, with some observers arguing that the main purpose of the Layeha was propagandistic. The Taliban certainly realised the propaganda value of the Layeha and in recent years have even posted it on their website. The 2006 version was passed on to a journalist by the then governor of Ghazni at the end of that year; while this was clearly a publicity stunt, it seems far fetched to argue that this was the sole or main purpose of the Layeha. The 2009 version came to be known after copies were captured on the battlefield by ISAF troops. That hardly suggests a primary propagandistic intent, where the primary aim would be to improve the Taliban’s image without substantial impact in the way the Taliban function.
Interviews conducted over the years with Taliban commanders suggest that the Layha was meant to be taken seriously by Taliban field commanders. The Layeha was widely circulated among Taliban field cadres (Military Commissioners and mid-level commanders) and among the minority of simple commanders who were literate. The Taliban cadres trained in Pakistan studied the Layha as part of their curriculum. Another commander explained that when the Layha was first released in 2006, there were clear instructions that commanders should read it together with their fighters in order to familiarise them. According to a commander in Wardak:
Just as the Afghan government has a constitution, so the Taleban have their rules in a small book, the Layha, which many commanders have.
Johnson and Dupee also commented that in 2010 the Alikozai tribe members in Sangin expected Taliban shadow governance officials to adhere to the Layeha. Two Taliban governors were reportedly removed from Sangin following allegations of brutal behaviour, against the rules of the Layeha.
The main problem in getting the rank-and-file to follow the Layeha was the high illiteracy rate among the Taliban, including among the field commanders. The typical Talib fighter is an illiterate village youth, who then gets deployed in small groups around the villages, a situation where supervision by team leaders and commanders (who usually have a madrasa background) is difficult. In theory, all Taliban field commanders are supposed to be educated, but few of them are literate. In October 2011 a commander in Imam Sahib stated that he was aware of the existence of the Layeha but refused to discuss its details, suggesting that he had at best a sketchy knowledge of it. Both the commanders from Wardak and Imam Sahib mentioned above were much better educated than the average for Taliban commanders. In addition the Taliban seem to have experienced difficulties in keeping their commanders focused on the Layeha all the time, and probably in adhering to its principles as well. A source among the Taliban in Peshawar indicated in October 2012 that there was dissatisfaction within the leadership because of the decreasing circulation of the Layeha, related partly to the loss of territorial control in many areas. While, as noted, the Taliban cadres trained in Pakistan have to study the Layeha as part of their curriculum, once caught in the fighting the Layeha is likely to fall down in their list of priorities. Says a former commander of the Taliban:
The Amirul Momineen [Mullah Omar] has issued a clear order that even spies should be pardoned if they show remorse and pledge that they will not spy on the Taliban in future. But you see Taliban slaughter innocent Afghans every day on charges of spying.
In sum, we might say that the Layha was widely circulated among Taliban leaders in the field (Military Commissioners and network senior commanders) and among the minority of literate group commanders and was an important if not the only medium for the leadership to convey to its fighting units what the movement’s strategic outlook and internal agenda were.
The role of implementing discipline among the fighters and the commanders in the field belongs to the Taliban’s senior military cadres known as Military Commissioners (after their introduction in 2007-2010) and to the Taliban judiciary. Cases are known of the Military Commission punishing unruly commanders. The role of the Commission is thus described:
The Military Commission works at the provincial level. All Taliban officials including governor, district administrators, military commanders and judges are answerable to this commission which is a supreme body.
Except in the south, where the Military Commission remained weaker, the new system would appear to have brought a better discipline among the Taliban. Infighting was dealt with most severely. In Baghlan in July 2012 there were clashes between the Sattar network and Jundullah, following an attempt of Sattar’s men to enter Jundullah’s territory. The Military Commission intervened to stop the fighting, investigate and threaten the two networks with disbandment if any such incident was to be repeated.
Another tool for the development of inter-group cohesion emerged as training. Group commanders were increasingly sent to attend training courses, which among other functions were probably meant to create a stronger sense of belonging to a large organization. In evenings, as fighters were resting, commanders were expected to read the Taliban’s code of conduct and discuss the aims and the ‘ideology’ of the movement. The fighters would attend prayers at mosques run by sympathetic mullahs; the Taliban over time started actually paying growing numbers of mullahs, making them even keener to preach in favour of jihad in their mosques. Taliban field commanders confirm the changing stress in 2011:
Training is very important. We spend most of our time training new Taliban. It wasn’t like this before, anyone could join without any proper training.
It’s almost one year ago when our training system changed and now we are all focused a lot on getting training of IEDs, making of suicide vests, getting ready of suicide bombers and guerrilla fighting.
The tactical training courses reportedly lasted 15-30 days and took place every four months or so; it might therefore be that these were refresher course, meant to instil new tactics in the mind of the fighters. In the south, where training had not been very popular, the new stress appeared to have been relatively welcomed. Among the Taliban of Helmand, for example, two thirds of those to whom the question was asked (26 out of 39) said that training is indeed important; in some cases they even stated that without such training the Taliban would not have survived as a military organisation. Only about 5% of those 39 dismissed the importance of training, with another 5% stressing that training was only important for new recruits and 23% dodging the question. However, since training was strongly endorsed by the Taliban leadership, there might be a bias towards expressing support for the idea of training among these interviewees. Interestingly, according to the Taliban themselves training is usually imparted by foreigners:
Before there were foreign Taliban among almost every team, but now there are no foreign fighters with Taliban, because in these days the numbers of Taliban increased and there is no need for foreign Taliban, if in the future we feel need for their support, for sure we will ask them to help us. Now we need support of foreign trainers for our training, we asked their support, Pakistanis trainers sometimes come to our district and give us training. When we don’t need their training then we won’t invite them.
What could the Taliban do without these foreigners? it is foreigners who give the Taliban weapons, advice, support. 
The foreign Taliban mostly stay with Afghan Taliban in the bases. They have responsibility to train and tell about the new tactics of the war, they are not regularly going to operations with Afghan fighters, unless there is heavy combat or attack from NATO troops. Then they participate in fights.
The investment in terms of foreign trainers seems to have been a substantial one, with up to 15-20 ‘Punjabi’ trainers in some southern districts. The various Taliban tactical groups were taking shifts in undergoing training:
We are in standby; very soon it is our turn to get training in new tactics. Now the trainers are in another village with another group of Taliban, when they have finished maybe they might be come to me to provide training.
In sum, the training effort was deployed according to a central plan, although it faced resistance from the rank and file as other efforts of the new centralised leadership discussed above. However, in this case the resistance was not as deeply rooted and training seems to have been accepted to various degrees by a majority of the commanders.
Witness to the importance of training in the eyes of Taliban leader was also the fact that after 2010 the Taliban part-timers started being trained too, so that they would turn into more proficient guerrilla fighters against an increasingly resourceful enemy. Training camps started appearing well inside Afghan territory, in places such as Sangin and Nahr-i Seraj. While training continued to take place in Pakistani territory too, the purpose of the training camps inside Afghanistan appears to have been exactly to train part-timers, who could not be expected to spend time in Pakistan for training.
Part of the effort to impose the same rules to all the Taliban was the rotation of group commanders, which should have turned them into a kind of regular officers as opposed to what they had been until them, small charismatic leaders of a groups of personal followers (the ‘Andiwal’). The Taliban were for a period experimenting with forms of military ‘bureaucratization’, trying hard to impose rotation among their commanders, effectively turning them into a kind of officer corps, which would be at the disposal of the military leadership, and would not own the rank-and-file as in the Andiwal system. As rationalised by one commander:
They don't want Taliban fighters to become too powerful in one area and to start abusing the people.
The experiment in rotation, which was probably meant to prepare the ground for greater centralization once the commanders and the rank-and-file had been separated and their links of personal loyalty weakened or dissolved, met great resistance and ultimately failed. The intensification of the targeting of Taliban commanders by ISAF from 2010 onwards contributed to this failure, but the commanders were always hostile to the idea of being rotated and in particular to the idea of doing so without their ‘andiwal’. By 2011 the rotation system was already being relaxed and then started being greatly reduced by 2012-13 already. First commanders were increasingly allowed to take their men with them, before the rotations were suspended altogether:
All the Taliban who rotated like a year ago, they are stuck in their areas and somehow the rotation is blocked temporarily until Taliban make their plan. Now there is no rotation among the Taliban in Nahr-i-Seraj district [Helmand] and all the Taliban commanders who are active in here have been around for a while and we don’t have any new face among the Taliban commanders in Nahr-i-Seraj district.
Command and control
Eventually the Taliban abandoned the idea of rotating most commanders. Instead they opted to create additional layers of command on top of the andiwal system. Originally the andiwal system extended to the whole structure of the Taliban – the shadow governors, who were the supreme military authority at the district and provincial level under the old system, were the most resourceful and powerful commanders. If rotated, they would take their men with them.
The Haqqanis and the Peshawar Shura instead pioneered a system where military command was entrusted to cadres sent by the leadership and selected according to their ability to manage operations, a kind of insurgent meritocracy. The Haqqanis were the first to ‘professionalize’ the insurgency and effectively had layers of cadres in place already in the early phases of their insurgency. The Peshawar Shura only emerged as a significant player in the insurgency after 2007, and rolled out their ‘professional’ system between 2008 and 2009. These cadres were mostly posted away from their provinces of origins and rotated regularly. So while the andiwal system continued to exist and group commanders continued to ‘own’ their men, the new layers of command at the district and province level introduced an element of military professionalism, at the highest level of tactical operations, which was also the most vulnerable to enemy ‘kill and capture’ tactics. Completely replacing the ‘andiwal’ system proved counter-productive and perhaps even impossible, given the resistance generated. It was however decided to centralize recruitment, so that future generations of fighters would become accustomed to a new system of institutionalized insurgency from the start, and gradually replace the old andiwal system. Gradually all three main centers of Taliban power (Quetta, Miran Shah and Peshawar) established ‘recruitment commissions’, with a budget and dedicated staff to recruit bypassing the field commanders.
Some groups of Taliban may also have experimented with new forms of ideologization as a tool to produce cohesion. The ideology adopted was in this case ‘jihadism’, the idea that the jihad was not just about liberating Afghanistan from occupiers and an illegitimate government, but the liberation of all Muslims from oppression of any kind. Contact with other jihadist groups, hosted by the Taliban, favoured the spread of jihadist ideas, which however remain to date a minority view among the Taliban.
It is not clear in fact to what extent sections of the Taliban simply became ideologised as a side effect of their contact with other organisation and to what extent their leaders deliberately sought such contacts, in order to foster the ideologisation of their rank-and-file. It is worth to repeat here what noted above, that typically foreign volunteers were in charge of training. To the extent that these volunteers were genuine ones, they were presumably carriers of a strong ideological motivation.
It is also worth pointing out that different groups and segments of Taliban showed varying degrees of consistency in their relationship with jihadist groups such as Al-Qaida and its allies. The Haqqani network maintained such contacts throughout its existence, for example, showing perhaps more consistency than any other group of Taliban. Some groups of Taliban, like now deceased Taliban leader Akhtar Mansur’s, showed instead considerable pragmatism by accepting Al-Qaida support for a period and then diverging from Al-Qaida when the opportunity to negotiate with the Kabul government arose.
Another practice that helped the Taliban achieve military cohesion was selective recruitment. In the early years of the insurgency, the Taliban would focus recruitment on former members of the Islamic Emirate before its overthrow. Then they focused on recruiting in madrasas, particularly Pakistani ones. Even today the large majority of the Taliban cadres comes from a madrasa background. The madrasa experience offered a solid ideological background and at the same time instilled a strong sense of discipline and duty, who made the recruits ideally suited for service in an insurgent movement. The relatively homogeneous curricula taught in these madrasas help the Taliban achieving cohesion.
As the Taliban expanded their ranks, they had to increasingly recruit fighters among common villagers. Even in this case they tended to target young mosque going villagers, usually relying on village mullahs to select and attract them. This shared background or religious practice contributes also to provide a degree of military cohesion. After 2010 the Taliban also started recruiting extensively in high schools, mainly because of the need for educated members to handle clerical tasks and sophisticated weaponry and communications. Taliban commanders commented in interviews that recruits from high schools were necessary to fulfil the new roles, but could not match the motivation and cohesiveness of the madrasa recruits. The core of the Taliban fighting force, particularly the full time, mobile element, continued nonetheless to be recruited largely in the madrasas of Pakistan.
Throughout their insurgency efforts up to mid-2016, the Taliban kept relying on group solidarity for military cohesion. There were efforts to create greater cohesion beyond the group-level (the Taliban’s basic combat unit), but these were disrupted by contrasts within the leadership, internal divisions and by a changing operating environment. The military organization of the Taliban has been in constant flux after 2008 and has become increasingly fragmented, making it difficult to evaluate what impact these changes might have had on military cohesion. In any case by mid-2016 the Taliban were still much more cohesive at the group level, than at higher levels of military organization.
Nonetheless by 2016 all the Taliban factions or segments had developed within their military structure a component with a stronger command and control structure (mostly known as ‘military commission’), which resulted in something like the creation of an officer corps. Pockets of inter-group military cohesion emerged within each of the main Taliban centers of power, but as of mid-2016 they had not yet spread to the Taliban as a whole. The 2015-16 crisis of the Peshawar Shura (which had been one of the main promoter of ‘professionalization’) in fact resulted in a roll back of professionalization and in weakening military cohesion in eastern Afghanistan (where the Peshawar Shura operates). This at a time when the Haqqanis, the other main source of professionalization and of efforts to increase military cohesion, were making well-funded efforts to expand their influence eastwards, through the creation of several new fronts. Other late efforts to foster military cohesion included in in spring 2016 the formation of highly paid (and selectively recruited) ‘Red Banner’ commando forces in the south, characterized by a particularly high esprit du corps (fostered also by the adoption of the own symbolism, the ‘red banner’).
A major side effect of the Taliban’s efforts to develop group cohesion was the creation of esprit du corps among the Taliban’s full-time, mobile forces, whose members increasingly came to see themselves as a military elite, separated and superior to the society they were claiming to represent and defend. Arguably a process of autonomization of the Taliban as a military organization is on-going, with the political leadership gradually losing influence over its military, which tends more and more to see war as an end in itself.
 Personal communication with several field commanders between 2011 and 2013; Tom Coghlan, ‘The Taliban in Helmand’, in Giustozzi (ed.), Decoding the New Taliban, London : Hurst, 2009.
 Interview with two Taliban commanders from Helmand, March 2012.
 Interview with former member of the Rehbari shura, September 2014.
 Interview with Taliban commander from Kandahar, Daman district, July 2011.
 Interview Taliban commander in Sayedabad, Wardak, December 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander from Panjwai, Kandahar, December 2011.
 See on the Layha: Kate Clark, ‘The Layha: Calling the Taleban to Account’, Kabul/Berlin: AAN, 2011; Thomas Johnson and Matt Dupee, ‘Analysing the new Taleban Code of Conduct (Layeha): an assessment of changing perspectives and strategies of the Afghan Taleban’, Central Asian Survey, vol. 31 issue 1, 2012, 77-91.
 Interview with former Taliban commander, Musa Qala, Helmand province, July 2011.
 Taliban source in the Peshawar Shura, contacted September 2012.
 Communication with Taliban cadre in Peshawar, August 2012.
 Taleban’s Layha, 2010.
 See Kate Clark, ‘The Layeha: Calling the Taliban to Account’, Kabul/Berlin: AAN, 2011.
 Sami Yousafzai and Urs Gehriger, ‘The new Taliban codex’, Die Weltwoche, 16 November 2006.
 Thomas H. Johnson, ‘Analyzing the Taliban code of conduct: reinventing the Layeha’, Monterrey : Naval Postgraduate School, 2009.
 See Kate Clark, ‘The Layha: calling the Talban to account’, Berlin : AAN, 2011.
 Interview with Taliban group commander in Wardak, October 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander in Wardak, September 2011
 Thomas H. Johnson and Matthew C. Dupee, ‘Analysing the new Taliban Code of Conduct (Layeha): an assessment of changing perspectives and strategies of the Afghan Taliban’, Central Asian Survey, vol. 31 issue 1, 2012, 77-91 78.
 Mike Williams, ‘How the British presence in Sangin restored trust in government’, Guardian, 20th September 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/20/british-forces-in-sangin, retrieved 14th March 2013.
 Interview with Taliban group commander in Wardak, October 2011.
 Taliban cadre in Peshawar, contacted October 2012.
 Interview with Former Taliban commander, Musa Qala, Helmand, July 2011.
 For the case of two commanders in Wardak, see Anand Gopal, ‘The battle for Afghanistan : Militancy and conflict in Kandahar’, New America Foundation, 2010, p. 23.
 Interview with Taliban judge in Badghis, autumn 2011.
 Interview with Taliban Commander, north-eastern Afghanistan, September 2012.
 Interview with Taliban commander in Nahr-e Seraj, Helmand, summer 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander, Marjah, Helmand, 2011.
 Interview Taliban commander, Kajaki, Helmand, summer 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander, Garmser, summer 2011..
 Interviews carried out in April-July 2012.
 Interview with Taliban commander, Nawzad, Helmand, summer 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander, Helmand, December 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander, Sangin, summer 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander, Musa Qala, summer 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander, Sangin, summer 2011.
 Taliban sources in Helmand, contacted in autumn 2011.
 Interview with Taliban commander in Helmand, December 2011.
 Interviews with Taliban commanders in Helmand, 2011-12.
 Interview with Taliban commander, Nahr-i-Seraj, Helmand, May 2012.
 Interviews with Taliban commander in Helmand, 2011 and throughout Afghanistan, 2012.
 See C. Franco and A. Giustozzi, ‘Revolution in the counter-revolution’, Central Asian Affairs, 3, 2016.
 Taliban sources in Miran Shah and in Peshawar, contacted in various occasions in 2012-16; Al-Qaida sources in Afghanistan, contacted in late 2015 and early 2016.
 Interviews with Taliban cadres working in the different Recruitment Commissions (Peshawar, Miran Shah, Quetta and Mashhad), spring and summer 2015.
 Interviews with Taliban commanders in Wardak, summer 2014.