A recent Long War Journal article by Will Selber outlines some of the most prominent resistance movements operation in Afghanistan and around the globe. Selber outlines the progress and weaknesses of the National Resistance Front, Afghan Freedom Front, National Resistance Council for the Salvation of Afghanistan, Afghanistan Green Trend, Afghan United Front, and Afghan Liberation Movement.

Some of the same issues are present in these resistance groups that also held back the previous anti-communist resistance from forming an inclusive government. Those mistakes in the 1980s and 1990s led to the civil war of the 1990s and the rise of the Taliban terror group. One thing that every nation has been clear about since August 2021 is that they do not want to repeat that mistake. Unless the various resistance groups start to collaborate and organize under one political umbrella, they will be starved of resources.

Major Issues

Different groups are trying to challenge the Taliban alone because they think resistance is a zero-sum game. The truth is there will be more support for any group that also helps and acknowledges the efforts of other groups. Groups that want to be “lone-wolves” thinking they will win more of a share of power later, will not exist later.

Bad communications strategies are also damaging the efforts of many resistance groups. Knowing when to stay silent is as important as knowing what to say when you speak. A recent example involves the death of the murderous leaders of the Iranian regime. Some Afghan groups went out of their way to offer condolences to the Iranian regime thugs who treat Iranians as badly as the Taliban treats women. Any group that wants to garner support from the United States must realize that cozying up to Iran will not win over veteran or political support. Iran has murdered many Americans since 1979 and many Afghans too. Silence can be your friend in foreign affairs.

Some of the groups are allowing themselves to appear to be manipulated by regional states that have historically tried to dominate Afghan governments. The public image of neutrality, and a focus on Afghanistan issues will protect resistance groups from these appearances.

The world has been waiting for a selfless leader to set aside their own ego and power to organize an inclusive power sharing group. Those who only push their own rhetoric and capabilities are not the kind of leaders that nations want to invest time or money in.

Lastly the various groups are not having a public, honest, and civil debate about their differing ideas of what the future of the country should be. To build consensus and show the world what they are investing in by backing an anti-Taliban opposition, a series of discussions are needed.

The Rest of the Resistance

What was not mentioned in Will’s article were the diplomatic and political resistance forces, and they are numerous. But they suffer from the same set of problems.

History has been clear that if you try to win a peace through military and intelligence means alone, you will fail. The diplomatic, political, and informational aspects of this anti-Taliban are even more crucial right now.

The world has moved-on from Afghanistan. To get national leaders and the press around the globe to care about Afghanistan, Afghans have a lot of work to do.

They must form an inclusive political body that can slowly build consensus about the basic values of a future Afghanistan. They need to be representative of the people that are often marginalized in Afghanistan. They must be full of younger people untainted by the worst of the last republic or tied to war crimes and human rights violations. They must ensure that women make up at least 50% of the body. If the same old violent men gather and think the world will take notice or want to help—they are mistaken.

There are political movements around the globe working on building a future government, and a counterweight to the Taliban regime. But they remain divided into silos that do not want to compromise and collaborate. It is the same for the diplomatic groups around the globe representing Afghanistan. Not all embassies and consulates are on the same page, their power is diluted and they cannot make any progress with foreign actors.

The most divided and contentious area of resistance is the informational realm. There are 40 million different opinions and they are often in heated arguments about small issues. If anyone pokes their head up to talk about building a collaborative effort, they are cut down quickly on social media and in the press. Everyone is screaming at each other and no one is listening. To the outside world this behavior just reinforces the stereotype that Afghanistan has been and always will be divided and easy conquerable by outside forces.

Finding the Right Friends

There are still allies to the people of Afghanistan who are eager to reinforce an inclusive effort. They are looking first for a political organization that is inclusive of the majority of the anti-Taliban groups. They are looking for the consolidation of diplomatic, intelligence and military actors under one anti-Taliban banner. Most importantly they are looking for strategic communications that builds consensus among Afghans and shows the world that the people of Afghanistan are ready to unify against the Taliban and Haqqani terrorists, and set aside smaller disagreements for now.

The last time the terrorist regime in Afghanistan collapsed under military force, the people of Afghanistan were unprepared to build a government that could quickly get to work and treat the people of Afghanistan equally. If Afghans start working now to build their future governance model and national values, they will be miles ahead when the terror regime falls again. If the people of Afghanistan choose not to focus on planning for the future, they will stumble again when a government full of thoughtful leaders is needed.

Separately the military, intelligence, political, diplomatic, and informational efforts will fail and the world will easily ignore them.

But together, they can multiply their strength and gather an alliance of nations that can help them weaken the terrorist regime. If Afghans use their time now to learn how to become solid selfless political leaders that can move Afghanistan beyond its past weak and corrupt governance practices, they have a good chance of success in the future. If they don’t do the hard work now, the Taliban will not lose power and the future remains dark for the youth.

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild and aids with conflict resolution in Afghanistan.