In his short story “On The City Wall,” Rudyard Kipling describes a “consistent man”: an elderly Indian warrior who had fought against British rule in war after war and rebellion after rebellion.
The Afghan Taliban are also consistent men. They are sometimes capable of pragmatism but nothing has ever changed, and nothing seems likely to change, their fundamental religious ideology. At best, Western aid can soften some of the harder edges by a little. So far, we have not achieved even that.
For the Taliban, ideology is deeply rooted in the ancient culture of the southern Pashtun rural areas from which the Taliban are overwhelmingly drawn. The Taliban’s latest victory, and the complete collapse of the opposing Afghan forces and ideologies, have naturally only strengthened them in their convictions. This culture is made up of closely interwoven strands of Islam and Pashtunwali, the ethnic code of traditional Pashtun society.
When on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban leader Mullah Omar explained to his followers why the Taliban would not surrender Al Qaeda leaders to America, and would rather fight however overwhelming the odds against them, it was to a mixture of these two traditions that he appealed. Melmastia, the duty of hospitality, is a central principle of the Pashtunwali, as providing refuge to fellow Muslims suffering for the Faith is a core principle of Islam.
Read the full piece in The National Interest.