Suicide bombers remain central to Taliban strategy

New Delhi: As the Taliban attempts to transform from an insurgency into a government, its contingent of trained suicide bombers remains central to its military and political strategy, experts say, RFE/RL reported.

In a victory parade after retaking power, the Taliban displayed its suicide bombers and arsenal of explosives-laden suicide vests. The parade triggered outrage among many Afghans who said Taliban suicide attacks had killed hundreds of civilians over the years.

The militants also announced the formation of a new “martyrdom brigade” made up of suicide bombers, in a move that experts say is an attempt to rebrand its suicide bombers as elite fighters ready to protect the new government, the report said.

“The current Taliban leadership seeks to retroactively take ownership of suicide bombing in all its forms and to give it a new meaning that will help it transform a decentralized insurgency into a unified government,” says David Edwards, a professor of anthropology at Williams College, as per the report.

He says the new suicide bomber brigade is intended to “confer legitimacy on the Taliban leadership as it attempts to turn itself into a semblance of a government with regular troops under its command and not just covert agents of violence”.

Edwards also noted that the Taliban’s would-be suicide bombers were “members of elite cadres who parade in regimental order wearing colourful uniforms that showcase the different types of suicide bomber and their function”, the report said.

In October, the Taliban announced that it was deploying its “martyrdom brigade” along the border with Tajikistan. The move came amid tensions between the Taliban-led government and Dushanbe, which accused the group of monopolising power.

The Taliban’s acting interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, held a gathering for the families of suicide bombers at a luxury hotel in Kabul last month. During the gathering, he lauded suicide bombers for their “sacrifice” and promised their families land and money, the report said.

Haqqani is head of the notorious Haqqani network, the lethal arm of the Taliban. The network is a US-designated terrorist organisation and Haqqani is among the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives.

Sami Yousafzai, a veteran journalist who has reported on the Taliban since its emergence in the 1990s, says by praising suicide bombers, the Taliban is alienating both the Afghans it hopes to rule and the international community it needs to fend off an economic and humanitarian crisis, the report said.

“Instead of trying to unite Afghans with a narrative of peace after claiming to have won the war, they want to bask in what they view as their glory and celebrate tactics such as suicide bombings that killed and maimed many Afghan civilians,” he says.

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